Tuesday, December 20, 2011


In the rush up to the Christmas holiday and with my often crazy work schedule I have to make a date to distribute all the homemade gifts I've prepared.  Today the 10-year-old and I pulled our red wagon loaded with jars and strolled the neighborhood.  We managed to get all but 6 delivered out of 21 names.  It was nice to see everyone, and chat a bit, and hear about everyone's holiday plans!

Tomorrow I will bring gifts for my riding partners and instructor and at some point the kids will take some to their teachers. I have gift cards for the mailman and the sanitation crew.  Thursday I will deliver 24 jars and 6 dozen cookies to work and spread some holiday cheer to the staff.  Oh, yeah.  And gum.  I bought LOTS of gum.  The ER staff really likes gum.  It might even be better than chocolate.

Well, no.  But almost.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chain Reaction

1.  My dryer was finally failing for good.

2.  We decided to buy front-loaders.  My husband wanted to stack them.

3.  That required removing the shelves over the washer and dryer, and the platform that was built underneath by some previous owner of our house.  The platform had to go or I would never reach the top of the dryer once they were stacked.

4.  That required a complete overhaul of the laundry area, including new paneling, moving the electrical socket and a lot of paint.

5.  An unforeseen side effect of moving the electrical socket was that the basement refrigerator is on the same circuit.

6.  It was unforeseen for 2 days before it was seen.

7.  A lot of my stockpiled meat needed to be eaten Right Now.  Thankfully the freezer and fridge were not as full as they could have been.

8.  We eat meat quickly, but not that quickly.  Monday we had spaghetti with turkey meatballs and chicken sausage in the sauce.  Tuesday there was a pork roast.  Wednesday there was a London Broil.

9.  Today, while we wait for the washer and dryer, we will eat Korean broiled eel with noodles - I took the leftover spaghetti from Monday, added soy sauce, sesame oil, 5-spice powder, garlic and white pepper and made "Asian inspired noodles."

10.  Today, I have a lot of paint on my hands and arms.  And in my hair.  Yesterday it was even in my ear.

11.  I also have 5 pints of BBQ pulled pork, thanks to Punk Domestics and another freezer-casualty (pork roast), plus a quick run to the store for pineapple and apple juices, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, and an additional pork butt.

12.  Yeah, Mom, I said that word.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Another Batch

Since yesterday's compote creation was so good, I made another batch using the last 1.5 pounds of the rhubarb in the freezer.  This time I added a second apple and ended up with 12 cups of compote.  Considering my gift list keeps expanding, I'm now up to needing 48 jars.  With this batch, I have 45 completed, only 3 to go!  Well, maybe I'll be adding a few more, I just thought of a few more names!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Working on the Gift Stash

My holiday gift list gets larger every year.  This is a good thing, of course.  But I find that I have to work hard to expand my gift stash to get ready for the latter part of the December.  I was thinking about the pear almond compote I made several years ago, and then I thought about adding cranberries and, well, I didn't have pears but I did have rhubarb, and then I thought, what are you waiting for?

I found this recipe for Cranberry-Rhubarb Compote and scaled it up for my frozen rhubarb.  Some organized part of my brain had thought ahead and weighed the rhubarb before I froze it, so it was easy.  I had 1 pound, 6 ounces of rhubarb so I scaled the rest of the ingredients up by 2.5, except the apple, because I only had one in the house.  I started to peel the apple but then I realized the pectin in the skin was required for this recipe so left it alone:

2.75 c. water
2 heaping cups sugar
5.5 cups cranberries
1 pound, 6 oz. chopped rhubarb
1 large apple, finely diced

This scaled-up version made 11 cups of compote, enough for 9 half-pint jars, 3 half-cup jars, and some for me.  It's nice and tart, not very sweet, but sweet enough.  I am guessing a little bit on the processing part but based upon similar recipes in my books, have decided upon 15 minutes in the boiling water canner and let them rest for 5 minutes before removing them.  I'm sure that will be more than enough.  This makes 33 jars in my stash and I need at least 8 more.  Maybe I'll make another batch!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Under Pressure

Not in a bad way, but I do have to go to work in a few hours and wanted to get the leftovers processed into stock and soup.  I started around 8:30 today, it is now almost 1:30 and the soup will be in the canner for another hour.  But I did make 6 pints of turkey stock and 5 quarts of turkey soup.

Since the kale and brussels sprouts salad was not a success, I had a bag full of shredded kale and sprouts.  I decided to add those to the soup.  First I simmered the turkey bones with a lot of the leftover meat (there is still plenty for sandwiches for at least 3 days) and then I got the bones out, added an onion and some celery, some pepper and thyme and, at the last minute, the kale and sprouts.  This is being processed for 90 minutes since it is in quart jars.  I didn't add any salt because of the brining of the turkey, but there may be a need to add salt when we open the soup.  We'll see.

I also used up the mashed potato leftovers by making potato pancakes.  The 6 year old did not like them and had a bagel instead, but the rest of us ate them up.  They are better with cranberry sauce than with syrup.  Here's how I made them:  2 cups of mashed potatoes, 2 eggs, 1/4 c. flour, and some buttermilk, with a teaspoon of sugar.  I mixed this all together and fried them in a pan.  That made 10 pancakes.  It took a little figuring out to know when they were ready to be flipped, the first ones kinda broke apart.  Even though they weren't pretty, they tasted fine - a little bit like potato chips.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


And tired!

I've been up since 6:30 am.  I rinsed and stuffed the turkey and got it in the oven by 8:30 am, and it was ready at 1:30 pm on the dot.  Amazing!  And the brining was a success - my father could not stop saying how wonderful the turkey was, which made me so happy!  I thought I was the last person on earth to get on the brining bandwagon but, if I'm not, and you haven't brined, you have to try it.

The kale and brussels sprouts salad was challenging, even for me.  I think the kale was too chewy for my taste, others found it too bitter.  My husband very politely avoided it.  I have some of the greens left that didn't get tossed in the dressing, I will likely cook them up sometime.  Maybe add them to some soup... which I need to make with all that leftover turkey.  Hopefully tomorrow, before I have to go to work.

The mashed potatoes were made with buttermilk this year, also successful.  Almost everyone chose the cranberry habanero sauce over the plain sauce, the spiced crabapples were a hit, and between the 10 of us we ate one and a half pies.  I totally missed out on the beets and eggs, they never even made it to my end of the table.  The kids were at their own table; there were lots of giggles and not a lot of eating going on.  But they did make a big dent in the pumpkin bread.  I froze the second loaf - we had, as usual, WAY too much food.  My fridges (I have 2) are full of food.  I do not need to cook for a week, I think.

I talk a lot about food, but the best part of the day was just having my family around.  My sister called during the festivities and joined in long-distance.  My brother and his family hung around for a while after dinner and it was fun just to sit around and talk.  That's what I'm thankful for - all the people in my life!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

New Things

Happy Thanksgiving!

As usual, Thanksgiving for us is whenever we can have it.  This year, it's Saturday.

I have my list.  I'm checking off things as I make them.  The other day I made the creamed broccoli.  Today I made:

1. A pumpkin pie, with homemade pie crust.  Added bonus: since I didn't have evaporated milk, I used egg nog.  Mmm.

2. Pumpkin bread:  2 loaves.  I was going to make 4 and freeze 2, but I was one egg short.  (I went through 17 eggs today, between the pie, breakfast, pumpkin bread, and:

3. Pickled beets and eggs.  I hard boiled 6 eggs and added them to the liquid of one of my jars of pickled beets.  Since I always have trouble with eggs cracking when I boil them, this time I set the eggs in cold water and waited to see which end floated.  I then poked a hole in that end and boiled them for 14 minutes. None cracked.  They were easy to peel.  I will do that from now on.

4.  Brined the turkey.  This is the New Thing.  I have never brined a turkey.  Fortunately, the turkey fits in my lobster pot so I didn't have to sanitize a cooler and worry about keeping it all cold.  I added 2 gallons of brine, 2 T. peppercorns, some sage, some thyme, and some celery seeds.  Tomorrow I will turn it over in the brine.

Tomorrow I need to make the stuffing, toast almonds for the salad (another New Thing:  a raw brussels sprouts and kale salad from Bon Appetit.  Most of my extended family is a little apprehensive about this one, but I think it'll be awesome), and go to the store for all those last minute ingredients.  Plus we are going to buy a new washer and dryer (my dryer is almost ready to give up the ghost, one can only repair these things so many times...) and there is this thing in the afternoon at the MIT Museum about kinetic/chain reaction sculptures that we must attend.

Saturday, I will do the rest!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's Been a While

Since I made chicken soup!

When I last roasted a chicken, I knew there was not going to be any time for a while to make soup with the leftovers (I think I was headed off to work), so my husband froze the rest of it for me.  In a bag, labelled, "One Really Dead Chicken."  Well, if that just doesn't make your mouth water, I don't know what will!

Knowing that with Thanksgiving this week the space in the fridge and freezer will be at a premium, it was time to make a batch of chicken soup and clear up more room.  So I boiled the chicken bones and meat with 3 quarts of water, some salt, pepper, bay and thyme.  When the meat fell off the bones, I took all the meat out and let it cool.  Then I added onion, carrots, celery, and 3 turnips (the last of the farm share turnips) and put the meat back in to simmer.  This yielded 10 pints of soup which are in the canner now (75 minutes at 10 pounds).  While I was doing that I made one of the sides for the big dinner - broccoli with a cream sauce.  It's one of my favorites, yet I only make it for Thanksgiving.  Why is that?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Soup

The other day, I made a pot roast in the slow cooker.  It was a 3 pound roast, with sauteed leeks, carrots and celery, a couple of bay leaves, parsley, salt, pepper, and water.  And it was really good.  I saved the leftovers, skimmed off the fat, and made soup today - another variation on the beef and barley theme:

2 leeks, chopped
1 T. minced garlic
5 carrots, diced
3 small celery ribs, diced
1 celeriac root, diced
8 cups water
1 cup red wine
1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
8 ounces pearled barley
2 bay leaves
1 can tomato paste
pot roast leftovers, cut into bite sized pieces, fat removed
kosher salt and pepper to taste

The leeks, garlic, carrots, celery and celeriac were sauteed in olive oil until soft and then the other ingredients were added, including the leftover liquid from the pot roast (minus the fat).  This simmered for an hour.  We had some for dinner and then I canned the rest while I watched The Sound of Music with the 6 year old - which meant that every once in a while I had to leave to tend to the pressure canner.  I tried to only leave at the dialogue parts; fortunately the canner didn't need too much tending!  (6 pints, 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.)

I'm getting close to the end of the farm share veggies I've stored up.  This used up the carrots and I only have one leek and one celeriac bulb left.  I still have 5 squashes and some turnips, but that's about it.  We even finished the popcorn - how can you watch The Sound of Music without popcorn?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not Dead Yet!

Yesterday's mushroom experiment was a success - no adverse effects at all!  And, since these mica caps lead short lives, I wanted an opportunity to really cook with them.  This morning I went out and harvested all the intact little ones I could.  The book says they are better when they are young, before the gills start to turn black.  So I left the big ones in the grass and took only small ones.

Once inside, I brushed them off (don't wash them, they get soggy), chopped up a shallot and a tiny pepper from a Brasilian pepper plant and fried it all in butter.  Then I made an omelette.  And it was GOOD.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Brave, or Crazy?

It's a fine line.

Today was a gorgeous day.  In the low 50's, sunny, with a good breeze, and most of the leaves in the front of the house are off the trees.  We went out to do some trimming and raking and the 10-year-old found mushrooms in the yard.  So I was called, and my book was fetched, and I got to work.

Tawny-brown caps?  Check.
Bell shaped caps?  Check.
Gills that start white and change to black as they age?  Check.
Growing in a tuft?  Check.

We decided we had Alcohol Inky Caps, which are edible but not if you plan on drinking alcohol, since they deactivate an enzyme which we need to digest alcohol.  Various medicines also do this - disulfiram is the main one and is, in fact, marketed to prevent people from drinking.  But something wasn't quite right; the color of the caps was more brown than the pictures.  So I did a little more research, and then I found a little tiny mushroom that confirmed that we, in fact, have Mica Caps.  Same family, also edible, but less likely to cause the alcohol reaction.  (Not that I care, I wasn't planning on having any alcohol for a while...but good to know anyway.)

After a spore print, examination with the loupe, and a little more on-line research, I decided I was correct in my identification.  That led to the next step:
Tasty, and as of an hour later, no ill effects.  Tomorrow I shall harvest more and use them for dinner!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Canning

Nope, not pumpkin.  But I did toast pumpkin seeds today...

The 6 year old was not feeling well so stayed home from school.  Which meant I got to stay home, too!  I set to work on a double batch of baked beans.  I had purchased the ingredients before the weekend, hoping I would have time to cook it all up then, but with all the other stuff I did, I couldn't get to it.  Today was perfect.

Since we weren't using the beans as dinner, I was able to put up the whole double batch:  8 pints in the pressure canner for 80 minutes.  They're about to come out, now.  I don't think it matters which recipe you use; I use the one in my Pillsbury cookbook which I've had for ages.  The cookbook is so old I had to transfer it to a new 3-ring binder when its original cover fell apart.  It has great, basic, simple recipes for great, basic, simple food.  It's one of the best.  And, considering that if I do takeout or even the cafeteria for dinner at work, I spend at least $5-10 each time, I think 8 meals of baked beans is a bargain.  I'm quite sure I didn't spend more than $10 on the ingredients!

Now I'm making a double batch of chili, some spicy and some not.  We will have some for dinner tonight (with grated cheddar or with the homemade mascarpone instead of sour cream) and I will either freeze or can the rest.  Since the pressure canner is out, it wouldn't be too big of an ordeal, just time consuming.

Tonight's chili recipe:
4 small onions, diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 pounds ground beef
1 quart tomato sauce
1/2 large bottle of chili powder
1 can tomato paste
salt & pepper to taste
2 packages kidney beans, quick-soaked
1 can (large) whole tomatoes in liquid
2 tbsp. pickled jalapenos (added to the spicy version only, obviously)

2 hours until trick-or-treating!  I LOVE Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nettle Ravioli

And so much more!

Perhaps some of you are aware, it snowed last night.  In Massachusetts.  In October.  And, from what I can tell, Halloween is a rather tenuous holiday which cannot handle snow.  Almost everything I had planned for the weekend was postponed, cancelled, or postponed then cancelled.

Remember how I was making Halloween costumes for the riding competition?  Cancelled.  Too slippery for the horse trailers.

Our neighborhood has an annual Halloween party in the local park.  Postponed, then cancelled.  First it was raining/snowing, then the paths were too wet today.

Instead, I spent the day cooking.  Yesterday I started a batch of mascarpone cheese.  This time I used Creme Fraiche starter culture, so it sat overnight in a warm room and then this morning I drained the creme fraiche in butter muslin for 4 hours to get the mascarpone.  I think I like this version better than the previous, using cream and tartaric acid.  It takes longer, but it's really good!

While the mascarpone was draining, I made a batch of sugar cookies (don't get too excited, it was a mix) in Halloween themed shapes: candy corn, spider, and skull and crossbones.  Later, when we decorated them, we decided that the spiders also worked as eyes with legs, and the candy corns also worked as ghosts.  The 6 year old decided that every shape made an Angry Bird.  (The 6 year old lately speaks of nothing but Angry Birds.  And will be one for Halloween tomorrow.  Yes, I had to make a whole separate costume from the riding one.)

Using the recipe in Hunt, Gather, Cook, I made rye pasta and used my frozen nettles, 2 potatoes, and 1/2 cup of the mascarpone cheese to make nettle ravioli.  The 10 year old was a big help for this project and together we made 5 dozen raviolis.  This pasta dough is even stretchier but much more fragile than the other (plain) pasta recipe, so there were lots of technical difficulties, but after the third dozen we did OK. 2 dozen have been frozen and the other 3 dozen were eaten for dinner, with just butter and parmesan cheese.  The remnants of the dough were converted to spaghetti and served for dinner as well.

We had friends coming over for dinner so I pulled together: a pork roast with onions and apples, applesauce, the nettle raviolis, roasted red kuri squash, roasted beets and a salad of lettuce, kale, Hakurei turnips, carrots, a few tiny green beans, and cucumbers with a balsamic vinaigrette. They brought a fabulous flourless chocolate cake for dessert!

And, in the middle of all that cooking, we took a trip to the hardware store and carved our pumpkins.
For the record, the snow is mostly gone as of this afternoon.  Hmpf.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pot Pie!

Leftovers never looked so good.
Chicken, a little pork, peas, noodles, onion, cream of mushroom soup and a homemade pie crust.

Served with the last farm share salad of the season, an acorn squash, and the nettle & potato soup from yesterday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Nettle Kind of Day

So, I headed back from my parents' house today, and went straight to the stables to pick up the kids after their lesson.  While I was there I showed off the Halloween costumes a little, and picked a large bunch of nettles.  I wanted to get more before it got too cold; I heard on the news that western Massachusetts might get some snow!

When we all got home, I opened the door to a very strange chirping sound.  Then came the electronic voice, "Warning!  Carbon monoxide detected!  Warning!"


I made the kids stand on the sidewalk and called 911.  The firefighters couldn't have been nicer.  As soon as they had a few normal CO readings, they let us in, and they checked everything.  They even had me crank the thermostat up to make sure the boiler was OK.  We decided the detector either needed new batteries or had gotten dust in it or something.

When that adventure was over, my husband came home and we all had to drive to Home Depot to get some supplies for a science project.  That meant we couldn't have the nettles for dinner because it would be way too late by the time we got home.  I had, however, blanched them by that point so I froze slightly more than half and, once we did get home, made a batch of the nettle potato soup for tomorrow.  We can just heat it up.  Tomorrow is the last farm share distribution, too.  That makes me sad, but we can look forward to next year, right?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Productive Day

I'm visiting my parents for a few days and they requested I make a full batch of toorshi for them. So I gladly chopped up 2 heads of cauliflower, a bunch of celery, a pound of carrots, 4 peppers, 8 hot peppers, and 2 cabbages and Mom peeled 3 heads of garlic. From start to finish it took 2 hours. And now they have 4 half-gallon jars and I get to keep my second jar!

After that, I set to work on the Halloween costumes. The kids and I are riding in an event on Sunday as a team (our instructor will be the fourth member of the team). There are prizes for best costume. How can I resist? I love Halloween. I love making my own costumes. The challenge here is to make costumes that we can ride in. We decided on chess pieces. I have completed the sewing today: shortened the horses' blankets, made a bishop's stole, 3 belts and 2 small tunics (for the knights) and one long tunic for the queen. Guess who is going to be the queen!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gingered Spaghetti Squash

Last night's dinner was a roasted chicken (and, yes, I'll be making stock and soup sometime - the bones are frozen until I get a chance to do that), a big salad and gingered spaghetti squash.

Since I wasn't really sure what to do with them, the spaghetti squashes have been sitting on the counter, taking up space.  And I haven't really been around much to make dinner, so it seemed like last night was the right time to tackle it and be creative.  I cut it in half and seeded it, and roasted it for about an hour at 350 (cut side down on the baking sheet).  Then I used a fork to make all the little spaghetti strands, and fried them in butter with grated fresh ginger and some salt and pepper.  I allowed a lot of the moisture to cook off.  I think it was a success!

The salad included arugula, mustard greens, and tat soi from the farm and dandelion greens from my yard.  I'd been planting Jerusalem artichokes and found a few dandelions so brought the leaves in for the salad.  My husband very politely commented that it was a "challenging" salad.  Too much sharp and bitter for his taste, I guess.  Just wait until I have Jerusalem artichokes to add!

I now at least have used enough squashes that the rest fit into a large basket instead of just hanging out all over my kitchen counters.  2 butternuts, 2 red kuri, 2 acorn, 1 spaghetti, 1 blue ballet, and that's a cob of popping corn in there, too.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Days of Chores and Applesauce

This weekend is one of my work weekends.  But I have the morning off for a change, so I am hurriedly doing 4 loads of laundry, a little light cleaning, feeding the kids pancakes for breakfast, and making applesauce.

Thursday was the farm share pickup, as usual, and next week is the last for the season.  I will miss it, as always.  The share (my half) was: 12 apples, 1/2 of a bowl of tat soi and arugula, 3/4 lb. potatoes, 1/2 quart of carrots, 2 cabbages, 1 cob of popping corn (we will NOT repeat last year's mistake of popping it in the microwave), some mustard greens, a bunch of dill, and 2 squashes - 1 butternut and 1 red kuri.  I plan to use the cabbages and dill to make my father a whole huge batch of toorshi next week.  He decided he wanted more than one jar a year!

While the kids slept this morning I chopped up those 12 apples and boiled them with 2 cups of water.  The the food mill came out and I ran all the apples through, ending up with a very unappetizing color of sauce.  Not really yellow, but certainly not pink.  Sort of an unpleasant green.  Cinnamon fixed that right up!  I added about 2 cups of sugar to the whole batch as well, and ended up with 2.5 quarts.  Of a lovely light brown, smooth and appetizing applesauce.

Tomorrow may consist of: working, planting my Jerusalem artichoke tubers (a birthday present from my sister), Halloween costume construction, and more applesauce.  It all depends...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Farmed, Foraged, Homegrown and Homemade

After my pasta-making extravaganza this morning, I spent all afternoon wondering what sort of sauce I should serve the raviolis with.  I mean, here are these wonderfully fresh pumpkin-sage raviolis.  A brown butter and sage sauce might be too much sage, right?

As I pondered this, I remembered that I had foraged a few cranberries in Maine last week.  So I did a little searching and came up with this sauce, paired with a pumpkin risotto.  I cut the recipe in half and, since I didn't have cranberry juice, just used water.  Here's my version:

1/6 cup water
1/2 cup frozen wild cranberries (foraged)
1/2 T. dijon mustard
1 shallot (small; farm)
2 T. sugar
4 T. brown butter

The first 5 ingredients were pureed in the blender and then the brown butter was added with the blender on low.  I set this aside while I cooked the raviolis and the rest of the homemade spaghetti.  In the pan in which I'd browned the butter I cooked all the little green beans from my bean plant.

The bean plant was brought to me at the end of kindergarten by my 6 year old who was excited last week to see that it was huge and had lots of little beans on it.  I think they were supposed to be kidney beans, but as they were all so tiny, I figured we could just eat them.  Once they were sauteed, I put them on the ravioli and topped it all with the cranberry sauce and a sprig of sage from the garden.  Wow.

Just Couldn't Wait

Really, truly, I had other things to do today. That involved being outside. Stacking wood, planting some ground cover, trimming. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, so it had to be today.

But that pasta maker called to me. "You missed me! You really missed me! I want to make pasta with you!"


I now have 3 and half dozen pumpkin raviolis, about one dinner each of spaghetti and fettucini, and a pile of stacked wood.

I used a basic pasta recipe: 1 pound of flour, 5 eggs, and a little olive oil. For the pumpkin filling, I made it up. I roasted a sugar pumpkin in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then I scraped out the flesh and chilled it a little. I squeezed out all the water and added freshly picked and chopped sage (about 8 large leaves), half a container of whipped cream cheese, salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg.

I had a few technical difficulties making the raviolis, considering it's been about 16 years since I used the press I guess I forgot a few things. So, note-to-self: flour the press, use thickness 6 (consider thickness 5), and don't overfill!

Since I don't anticipate we'll eat all the ravioli tonight, I froze 2 dozen - currently they are sitting on waxed paper in the freezer and, when they are frozen, I will transfer them to bags. When the rest of the pasta is dry, I will figure out how to store it.


I am not the Pasta Queen.  This -

is the Pasta Queen.

I had this little press in medical school.  Don't even ask how I found the time to make my own pasta in medical school, but I did.  Plain, spinach, beet, carrot, lemon, lime (great with margarita shrimp), pepper, oh! the possibilities!

I got married, and in our first home I don't think I ever unpacked the press.  We moved again, this time the storage area was 3 flights down, so there was no way little gizmos such as this would be seen.  We moved again, 8 years ago, and just today, I have brought out this press.  I also dug out the ravioli press, which needs to be washed.  But I have nettles.  And pumpkins.

Oh, the possibilities!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Three Quarts

That's how much applesauce 13 large apples makes.

Today's applesauce was a bunch of golden delicious (I think) and some other kind of apple which was mostly green.  I did the usual thing, boiling them with the skins, but since the skins aren't red, the applesauce isn't pink.  It's yellow, like the applesauce in the store.  I added about 2 cups of sugar to the pot full - I say "about" because there was only a small amount left in the bag and I just dumped it in!

My in-laws just left for home, and I'm sad.  I like having them here.  But, of course, I couldn't let them go empty-handed!  They went home with 6 jars of jams, salsa and pickles to enjoy.  Be safe on your travels!

Friday, October 7, 2011

"There's a Lot of Stuff in My Fridge"

This is what I said to my sister earlier today.

Now, one batch of toorshi later, I have more room in that fridge.  This year's batch consisted of:

2 small cabbages (farm)
3 peppers (from my garden, picked before last night's frost)
4 jalapenos, 3 poblanos and 2 other, unidentifiable peppers (farm)
1.5 pounds carrots (farm)
1.5 heads of garlic, cloves peeled and halved (they were huge) - (farm)
a bunch of dill (farm)
and a bunch of celery and a head of cauliflower (Whole Foods)

The other day we opened last year's jar.  That batch had habaneros in it and it was HOT.  And really, really good.  My father had some and was inspired to open his jar from that last batch.  I think it may be mostly gone already!  In an effort to make this year's batch as hot, I left the seeds in the jalapenos.  Generally, it takes a few months for it to taste right, but it seems we generally wait almost a whole year before we open a jar, so it has a lot of time to get spicy!

Because I added cabbage this year, the volume was greater, so I ended up with 3 half-gallon jars.  One for my brother, one for my dad, and one for me.  Bliss!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Late Night Canning

It's almost 11 pm and I'm processing applesauce.  I wanted to finish up the last of the apples we picked, and I don't have a whole lot of blocks of time to do that in, so I decided to stay up late and make a batch.  This one is chunky with a little cinnamon.  12 or so apples, 2 cups of sugar, a cup of water and a heavy-handed sprinkle of cinnamon simmered for about 20 minutes and then went into 2 quart jars.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I was up in Maine yesterday and, while we were hiking around, I found tiny little cranberry plants.  At least, I am pretty sure they are cranberries.  I ate one, it looked like a cranberry on the inside, tasted like a cranberry, and I'm not sick or anything, so I'm assuming they are edible.  I picked a couple dozen and will likely make a little sauce to go over some chicken soon.  Currently they are safely tucked in the freezer.  I also found a handful of very-late-in-the-season blueberries, which proved the tiniest of treats!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different...

At first, I thought they were figs. They are supposed to be a little more green.
My in-laws arrived tonight with a gift straight from the farms of Ohio - pawpaws!

Ohio's state fruit was almost the pawpaw.  It should have been, but the tomato won out.  I have no idea why.  2 years ago my mother-in-law and I saw an article about that and, ever since then, she has been on a mission to find me this elusive fruit and bring it to me so I can preserve it.

The problems with this plan were myriad.  Pawpaws, when found, need to be picked off the tree, not up off the ground, because if they are on the ground they are already too ripe.  They don't last long at all.  The batch I was presented with had been picked 2 days ago and they were already getting very soft.  Most people who have pawpaw trees don't even consider them something edible or even remotely lucrative.  By habit my in-laws asked around at a local (to them) farmers market and found someone who admitted to having some trees and was willing to bring some the following week for them.

One other problem is that they need to be dealt with rather quickly.  So, after the kids went to bed and the in-laws unloaded the car, I set to work.  Pawpaws are a lot like bananas, but they have these big seeds which look like large beans.  Each pawpaw is very little flesh and a lot of seeds.  Or, at least, these were!  Maybe there are bigger ones further south - the pictures on the wikipedia page show much larger fruit than what I had.  Using a recipe on line as a guide which calls for 1.5 kg of pawpaw flesh, 1 kg sugar, the juice of 2 limes and 50 grams of pectin, I grabbed my scale and started measuring.

I weighed out the pawpaw flesh: 635 grams.

I weighed out the sugar: 485 grams.

To this I added 1 T. lime juice.  When it was all boiling I added about half of a Certo package.  Which is essentially 50 grams (so I used twice as much pectin as the recipe called for, but it worked out just fine).  What I ended up with is 4 half-pint jars of pawpaw jam and a little left in the pot for me to taste.  It's a bit like roasted bananas, maybe bananas foster?  It's moderately tropical.  I like it!

Thanks for the gift!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nettles for the Freezer

After our nettle success of last week (and a foraging failure; let's just say that not every berry is a chokecherry) I wanted to get more nettles to freeze this time.  Hunt, Gather, Cook says that after you blanch them in the boiling salt water and shock them in the ice water you can drain them, squeeze them out, and freeze them.  This is exactly what I did.  However, I got 3 times as many nettles this week so I have 3 small packages of frozen nettles.  I even weighed them so I would know how many grams I had.  Just in case I find a recipe that uses the metric system.

The book also said you can take the liquid you squeeze out of the nettles and drink it as a tea.  I tried this, but it was still too salty so I guess I'll be figuring that out another time...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Apple Picking

We had a great time apple picking the other day.  Despite the weather.

No, it didn't rain.  It was sunny and 83 degrees.  That's just wrong, somehow.  There should be a crisp chill in the air and you should have to wear a sweater.  Not a short-sleeved shirt!  There should be no smell of fermenting apples.  One should not work up a sweat picking apples.

Regardless, the season is early this year and strangely warm.  So we got our half-bushel of apples:  honeycrisps, vampires (I mean empires), cortlands and macouns.  Even a couple of galas.  The kids had fun running on the haybale maze.  Not in, on.  The best part is running on the top of it and leaping to the next bunch of bales.  Now I have some applesauce to make, as we are just about to finish the last jar from last fall!

Today I cooked up about 25 apples in two batches, each batch with 2 c. water and then run through the food mill.  To all this I added 4 cups of white sugar and ended up with 4.5 quarts of applesauce and one very happy 9 year old who got to lick the pot!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Something to Crow About

"Why, is it," my husband asks, "that when you cook with the farm share you announce it to us at dinner?  You don't announce which grocery store the food came from, so why is the farm different?"

Good question.  I guess that even after three years I am still really excited to be getting my produce locally. It feels like a novelty.  And it's made me a little spoiled.  I frequently turn up my nose at produce in the store (even the much-lauded Whole Foods) because it isn't nearly as fresh as the veggies I bring home from the farm.  I also feel like I'm getting a tremendous bargain - all this organic food for not a whole lot of money!  What could be better?

Tonight I made a double batch of khoresh, a basic persian stew.  Once you have the base, you can add all sorts of things to it.  So, after skimming off 2 quarts for the pressure canner, I added turnip greens, beet greens and mustard greens to the rest of the stew and, 15 minutes before dinnertime, I added some fried eggplant.  This, plus the potato tadiq in the rice, used up a good chunk of farm share from this week.

I am, however, inundated with squash.  I have all the squash I had last week, plus another delicata, a kabocha, and a small pumpkin.  I will need to take Lisa up on her offer to make soup!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Foraging 101

These, my friends, are nettles.  Stinging nettles.  Urtica dioica, to be exact.  And tonight, I am having my first meal with them.  I have foraged.

My sister sent me two cookbooks about foraging.  One, entitled Hunt, Gather, Cook, by Hank Shaw, is amazing and hilarious.  This guy thinks a bit like me.  He looks at something and his first thought is, "Can I eat that?"  The only problem with the book is that it isn't really a field guide.  So I took a few of the greens he mentioned in the book and looked them up on the internet, just last night.  One was nettles.  And, lo and behold, while I was riding today I noticed something that looked a lot like the pictures I saw.  To be fair, I started my afternoon at the stables by looking around at the ground and thinking, "OK, dandelions I know, but are those lambs quarters?  Is that garlic mustard or geranium?"  But with the nettles, once I got over to them and took a look, I was quite sure of myself.

You might find this strange, but I keep gardening gloves in the trunk of my car.  I started that because sometimes when I hike I see trash and want to get rid of it, so I have the gloves with me and a plastic bag to gather trash.  Who could have foreseen that I would want to pick stinging nettles?

Once we got home, I blanched the nettles in boiling salt water and then shocked them in ice water.  This gets rid of the formic acid which makes them sting.  I made a potato-nettle soup:

1 cup nettle leaves, blanched
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
2 cups chicken stock
3 small potatoes, cubed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. parsley

The onion, garlic and nettles were pureed with 1/2 c. of the stock and then added to the rest of the ingredients in a pot.  This was simmered for about 30 minutes until the potato cubes were tender and then the immersion blender did its thing.  We now have a thick green fragrant soup and I almost cannot wait until dinnertime!

Under Protection

Last night my husband went up to the garden to look for some tomatoes.  What he found was a formidable sentry keeping watch.
In the light of day it wasn't anywhere to be found, likely hiding in the tomatoes, but the web was something to behold!  I managed to squeeze under it enough to find the one tomato hiding behind a plant.  And I also grabbed a cucumber, likely the last.  The peppers are having a second crop and the beans are almost ready. It won't be long before I dump all the plants over the railing, lash down the pots and cages, and rake the dirt into the yard below.

I used the tomato and the cucumber, along with farm share parsley and cippolini onions, to make a tabouli salad.  The only difference is I'm using half the volume of lemon juice and oil.  The last time I made this it was too watery.

This is the time of year when the farm share gets overwhelming, even to me.  What I have left to work through (and I'm picking up another share tomorrow!) is:

3 acorn squash
2 spaghetti squash
1 blue ballet squash
1 delicata squash
2 pounds potatoes
2 beets
peppers and hot peppers
6 leeks
onions, garlic, and shallots

Fortunately, with fewer greens, a lot of the vegetables, particularly the squashes, onions, and carrots, can be stored for a while.  This is good because we haven't been home for dinner much in the last week or so.  Last night we had steamed edamame and a pasta primavera with tomatoes, eggplant, onion and carrots.  Yum!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Starting on the Gift Stash

Last week's farm share had one of those crazy big zucchinis in it, in addition to more peppers and onions.  Since the zucchini relish is such a hit, I decided to make another batch in the half-pint jars so I could give them as gifts.  I combined 6 cups of diced zucchini, 2 cups diced peppers, 2 cups diced onion, all from the farm share, with 1/3 cup kosher salt and then covered with cold water.  This sat for 3+ hours and then was drained and rinsed.  It was combined with 1.5 cups vinegar, 0.25 cup water, 1.75 cups sugar, 1 tsp each of celery seed and ground turmeric, and 1/2 tsp mustard seed.  (The recipe calls for green food coloring but I never use it.)  This simmered for 10 minutes and then was processed for 10 minutes and now I have 7 jars in my gift stash!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Raspberries...

...and other things.

I've been in a particularly pensive mood over the past few days.  Partly because of the specific national events of the last weekend, but also on a more personal level.  It has been a year since I broke my finger and faced two months of enforced slowing down on a professional level.  It has been a year since I have worked under a contract, and the "negotiation" process to get a new one has taken its toll on everyone involved.  My kids went back to school last week.  Summer is almost over, and it's time for raspberries.

Last week I went with the kids and our friend and picked some berries, but 3 days of rain had left them squishy and it was hard to find good ones.  We picked what we could and I made a big crisp.  Which was yummy.  Today I went back for a larger bucketful so I could make another batch of seedless jam.

I won't bore you with the details, but I have 8.5 cups of jam and the food mill caused no trouble today.  That's not the important part.  The important part was that I spent over an hour in the sun, methodically picking berries and thinking about life, family, friends and what matters most.  That the opportunity to pause, reflect, and appreciate the natural world around me is a gift to be cherished.  That ants, and the flock of sparrows in the canes, and bees, and spiders are to be celebrated, not feared.  That I need to spend less time worrying and more time living.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rainy Day Canning

That Concord grape juice was ready to decant and there wasn't really anything else to do this morning.  The kids are in school (today was their first day) and it's absolutely pouring outside.  Which means, no raspberries, again.

I decanted the juice through the jelly bag again and added a cup of sugar to what is about 2 quarts of juice. The recipe says to heat it to 190 degrees for 5 minutes, which I think I did, but my thermometer wasn't long enough to be clipped to the side and stay in the juice so I was holding it over the pot every few minutes.  When it got too hot for me to hold it for more than a couple of seconds and was thinking about boiling I figured I was there.

Ultimately I got one quart to can and the other quart wasn't full enough.  I contemplated topping it off with boiling water but then I decided I'd just have us all drink it now and leave the one jar for a treat on another day.  Maybe another rainy day like this one.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Concord Grapes

In the years since I first got Concord grapes from the woman across town, my oldest and her youngest became friends.  Among other things, this meant that this year when I pinged her about the grapes in her yard (which, by the way, is beautiful!) she very generously said, "Come by and pick all you want!"  Wow.  I did not need a second invitation.

This afternoon we stopped by when it wasn't raining very hard and picked about 8 pounds of grapes.  A batch of jelly takes 3 pounds.  Following the Certo recipe, I made 7 half-pint jars of grape jelly and there is more in the fridge.  The other 5 pounds are in the process of becoming grape juice.  According to the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving I could can the juice in pints or quarts, but I think we might just drink it.  I'm not sure yet.  Right now the juice is in the fridge, letting the solids settle, and then tomorrow or maybe Thursday it will be decanted and I will add sugar and heat it according to the directions.  With any luck tomorrow there will be raspberries as well.  They fields were closed today because of the rain.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Garden Salsa

Hurricane, I mean Tropical Storm, I mean tropical depression, I mean wicked-bad-storm Irene came and went.  I stayed at the hospital as planned, but it turns out I probably was being over cautious.  Whatever.  My roof garden stayed put, nothing even blew off the plants!  However, the farm was not so lucky.  Their tomatoes took a beating so this past Thursday was the last day for tomatoes.

In the share: 2 tomatoes already picked, then we had to go pick a pint of cherry tomatoes, 2 quarts of small tomatoes (roma or jolly), and 20 heirlooms.  I didn't even get all 20.  Plus 10 hot peppers, 2 quarts of beans (green and yellow), 30 flowers and 15 sunflowers.  I can't even hold more than 8 sunflowers.  AND 2 heads of lettuce, 1 bowl of arugula, 1 bunch of chard, 5 leaves of kale, 2 pounds of potatoes, 1 bowl of carrots, 1 bowl of mix and match (I focused on peppers, onions, garlic and eggplant), 2 acorn squash and a spaghetti squash.

I took my half home and we had a big salad to go with some amazing coho salmon Lisa (hi, Lisa!) had caught in BC.  Served with corn relish and parmesan roasted potatoes, the entire meal except for what the 6 year old ate was farm-grown, home-canned, or self-caught.  That, my friends, is COOL.

This morning I had some time to make more salsa and I am pleased to say that none of the produce in it was store bought!  I had to vary the recipe by adding cucumber because I didn't have enough peppers but here it is:
2 quarts tomatoes, chopped and seeded (multiple varieties)
1.5 c. peppers, chopped (bell, poblano) 
0.5 c. chopped seeded cucumber (because I ran out of peppers)
2 c. chopped onion and garlic (1 red, 2 vidalia, 1 shallot, and 2 large cloves garlic)
2 chopped red cherry peppers
2 chopped jalapenos
1/4 c. white vinegar
1/6 c. sugar
2 T. kosher salt
This gets cooked over medium high heat until the onion and peppers are soft, then ladled into pint jars with 1/2 inch headspace.  Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Now, if anyone has good spaghetti squash recipes to share, I'm all ears.  I had never cooked them until last year and I could use some suggestions...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Canning Before The Storm

Perhaps you've heard, there's a hurricane on its way to the northeastern U.S.  And I have to work!  I plan to work this evening and then stay up there through the storm and work my shift and then go home when it's all over.  While I am not psyched about leaving the car outside in the hospital parking lot, I am more not psyched about driving in 60+ mph winds.  

Anyhow, I wanted to finish up the farm share canning projects I had going on so I could feel like I wasn't just cooling my heels tomorrow while I'm stuck at work.  So this morning I made pickled beets.  There were more than a few rogue golden beets in my stockpile of beets - they look ghostly in the jars of dark purple.  There are 4 quarts of pickled beets in this batch and I plan to give at least 2 of those jars to my mother-in-law.  One in the care package I'm preparing, and the rest later when they come to visit again.  She loves them and I'm happy to oblige.

Then I used up all the tomatoes from my garden which were ripe (have to get them all off the vines before the wind does), plus the farm share tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos, and scallions to make this salsa.  It is really, really good.  I had exactly 3 quarts of tomatoes once I chopped them all up.  I used up all the farm share peppers and jalapenos and added 1 store-bought green pepper.  I used my scallions and a single store-bought onion and then rounded out the 3 cups of onion by using 4 cloves of farm share garlic and 2 shallots.  It made 6.5 pints of salsa.

This is what's left of the farm share from Thursday:
1 heads of lettuce
10 leaves of kale
1.5 pounds of potatoes
1 cucumbers
1 heads of garlic
1 large shallots
2 eggplant
3 small pattypan squashes
2 spaghetti squashes

I think I've done pretty well, then, don't you?

And my thoughts are with all of you in the Carolinas & vicinity.  Stay safe!

Friday, August 26, 2011

One Farm Share Project Completed

Yesterday I got the full share because my sister-in-law is out of town.  It's an insane amount of food:
2 heads of lettuce
10 leaves of kale
1.5 pounds of potatoes
10 tomatoes
3 peppers
2 cucumbers
2 heads of garlic
3 large shallots
lots of beets
lots of carrots
10 jalapenos
1 bunch dill
2 eggplant
3 small pattypan squashes
1 pint sungold cherry tomatoes
2 pints jolly tomatoes (supposed to be 4, but I gave up in the rain)
1 pint green and yellow beans (supposed to be 2, also too rainy)
2 melons
2 spaghetti squashes
I didn't even bother with the flowers and the rest of the herbs.

So I have three big projects to do: dilled carrots, pickled beets, and I think I'm going to make salsa out of all those peppers, tomatoes, jalapenos, and garlic.  But not today.  Today I tackled the carrots!

In addition to dilled carrots (and, for the first time, I can actually use the dill heads the recipe calls for since I got fresh dill at the farm) I tucked the green and yellow beans into 4 of the pints.  I think it will be a nice combination.  They look really festive with the orange, green and yellow stripes.  Today's totals are 4 pints of the dilled beans and carrots and 3 pints of dilled carrots.  I ran out of hot pepper for the last pint so used cayenne.  I'm sure it will be great!

What's left?  LOTS.  I think I'll make the beets, salsa and maybe potato chips tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Whole Lot of Cooking Going On

Sometimes I take on too many things.  ("No!" you say, incredulously.  Or is that sarcastically?)

We had lunch at my friend's house and I brought a stepstool so we could get more of those crabapples.  We specifically picked those which had no holes, rotten spots, or anything that looked remotely like a bug had been at it.  I was canning these ones whole.  We picked a little over 4 pounds.  I used the Spiced Crabapple recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and made 2 quarts and 2 pints.  I will give a quart to my friend and I expect to give away 2 more of the jars.  It has cinnamon, allspice, and clove in it.  They smell lovely!

If that had been the only canning/cooking project for the day it would have been plenty.  But I had a few other things in the works.  I had set up a double batch of stroganoff in the slow cooker this morning.  But, since the slow cooker isn't big enough for 2 batches, I put the meat, onions and half the liquid in and cooked it all day and when we got back at 5 pm I put it in a pot with the mushrooms and the rest of the liquid and let it simmer.

Then I made chocolate zucchini bread - finally tamed the last of the monster zucchinis.  It makes 2 loaves.  I probably could have left them in the oven a little longer - they are soft on the bottom.  That's OK.  It's amazing.  The 6 year old gobbled up a slice.  Shhh!  Don't say anything!
THEN I made the spiced crabapples.  I got distracted doing laundry and they overcooked a little so some of the apples burst.  But overall most of them are still apple-shaped.  While they were processing I got the pressure canner ready and heated up 2 more quart jars.  After the pot was cleaned I cooked the noodles for the stroganoff.  Then when I had room on the stove for the pressure canner I started warming that up and filled the 2 quart jars with stroganoff (take it out before you put the sour cream in) and got them going in the pressure canner.  They're now going strong.

We had dinner, we had the zucchini bread, and now I'm going to go play Blokus with the family.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Relishing the Day

All in all, this wasn't really a great day.  Just a day.  But I did get some canning in and, well, I like puns, so here we are.  With so many things to relish.  Ha ha.

I stopped by the store this afternoon to get extra peppers in case my home grown ones weren't enough for the zucchini relish and I saw they had corn on sale.  $2 for a dozen!  I bought two dozen and some celery and got to work on both relishes when I got home.

First I cut up the zucchini, peppers and onion for the zucchini relish.  It has to be soaked in canning salt and water for 3 hours so I got that going.  All the peppers were from my garden and all the onion came from the farm share.  Then I worked on the corn relish.  I blanched 20 ears of corn and used my corn zipper to cut off the kernels.  I chopped up all my farm share peppers:  sweet, banana, and poblano and added them to the last 3 of my peppers and 2 store bought red peppers.  To this I added 1 bunch of celery and one onion, diced.  After dinner I made the corn relish (used the recipe on the pickyourown.org website) but I added Clearjel instead of flour paste.  I now have 9 pints of corn relish.

Currently the zucchini relish is simmering and is about to be canned.  I ended up with 1.5 times the recipe because I had so much zucchini - and I still have one more monster-mutant to go.  Not sure what I want to do with that one.  But I had given away all 3 jars of the first batch of this relish and wanted to make more because it is really good!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Caught a Fish For Dinner!

Doesn't this look peaceful?
Remember how, two years ago, I learned how to fillet and scale a fish because I was optimistic that I would catch one on our camping trip?  That year I didn't catch anything at all.  Then, last summer, we went again and I caught a fish, a perch, we think, and it was too small and we were just about to leave so I let it go.  Well...

This past weekend was the annual trip to the same place.  This year was more pleasant - quieter, we all had adjoining sites again, and even though it threatened to rain it didn't.  And, I caught a fish that was large enough to eat (barely) and early enough in the trip that I could actually do something with it!

We're pretty sure I caught a Northern Pike.  I learned how to gut it from the 12 year old son of our friend.  It was not as messy as I had anticipated.  I made it into one big fillet but I suspect had I left the spine in and kept it fish-shaped I'd have had an easier time cooking it.  I ended up wrapping it in foil with a little salt and baking it on the coals.  Almost everyone in our group of 10 tried it (see if you can guess who didn't?) but I ate most of it because it was MINE.  I felt empowered.  Even if my husband had to be the one to smack it dead first.  Next time (and there will be a next time) I will do that myself.

We finished up the 2 quarts of lobster bisque I made back in April and froze - it helped keep the cooler cold until we were ready to eat it.  And I opened a jar of pickles.  I did bring jam and relish but we never got to them  - we had SO MUCH food for all of us, it was ridiculous!

Now I can't wait to go back!
This cheeky little guy kept coming to visit!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yep. That's a Lot of Peaches.

After dinner I finished canning that half-bushel of peaches.  2 more quarts of peaches in light syrup and one more pint of brandied peaches.  I decided I would just peel them with a paring knife rather than do the whole boil-peel-slice thing and it was less messy and faster. 

Overall, they weren't terrible for what I paid for them, but the other place from which I've purchased these in the past had slightly better quality.  Considering they're "seconds," and you get what you pay for, it was not too surprising that I had to throw a few out.

I also had to reprocess one of the pints of brandied peaches from earlier because it didn't seal and it had siphoned a bit.  I topped off the syrup, gave it a new lid, and tried again.  Hopefully it worked this time.

Soon it will be time to get to the remaining two zucchini monsters!

Gonna Can Me a Lot of Peaches

One of the more inane and yet strangely catchy songs by the band "The Presidents of the United States of America" is a song called Peaches.  I don't know why it still sticks in my head, but it does, and whenever I have peaches I can't help but hear that song.  Over and over again.  Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man, in a factory downtown...

Oh, sorry, I got distracted there for a minute.  Near the stables where I ride there is a farm.  I've driven by it a few times but never stopped, and then today on a whim I stopped to see if they had "seconds" for canning.  They did!  A large box (21 pounds) for $10.  Mostly white peaches but there were a few rogue yellow ones in there.  I also bought a little bag of peaches for eating.  And was excited and happy to learn that the 6 year old discovered peaches recently and gobbled one up on the drive home!!!

Every time I want to can peaches I conveniently forget how messy they are.  It's soooooo worth it, canned peaches are awesome, so I put up with it, but it's a long process.  I can only boil 4 at a time to peel them.  I have learned that more is not better when it comes to boiling them - 1 minute is just enough, 2 minutes is BAD.  I'm not sure why it's bad, but it does strange things to the peaches and they fragment and shred when you try to peel them.  Don't do it.

I'm already a little more than halfway through the box and I have 3 quarts of peaches in light syrup and 2 pints of brandied peaches in the canner.  I might have another 3 quarts' worth left.  I wasn't keeping track.  But I will clearly have to do them tonight because I have no time tomorrow and these peaches will not last much longer!  They are seconds, after all.  I tried to use up the really squishy ones with the first batch to buy myself a little more time.

To make the brandied peaches, you hot pack the peach slices like the plain ones and then mix equal parts of brandy or cognac (I used Hennessey) with syrup and fill the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  These will likely be very carefully marked to make sure they don't accidentally get mixed up with the plain ones.

More Mutants

See?  It even looks as if it had a fight with Wolverine!
The zucchini monsters are back!

My friend brought me 4 more weighing in at a hefty 12.5 pounds total.  Yikes!  Today I took the 2 smaller ones and made 6 pints of "Zany Zucchini Pickles" from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I cut them in spears instead of circles, which might have been the wrong thing as they are fairly floppy.  But the circles would have been HUGE.

I am almost completely out of mustard seeds - so I'd better get more before I start in on more zucchini relish!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Social Media Delivers

Abigail pinged me on Google+ a few hours ago and said she had some pears for me.  I happened to be on line so I immediately wrote back, hopped in the car and drove to her house.  (I didn't go empty handed.  I brought over some crabapple jelly.  Hope you like it!)  There were just over 4 pounds of pears waiting for me.  The perfect amount for 2 quarts of pears in syrup!

As an added bonus, the 9 year old helped!

(Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, page 145.)

Minty Fresh

Before the mint in my garden goes to seed (but after it has gotten completely out of control) I figured I should make a batch of mint jelly.  We tend to eat more lamb chops in the winter, and it's one of the few meats we can get the 6 year old to eat so we have it often enough to use a lot mint jelly.  I was down to 1 almost full jar in the fridge and 1 and a half cups of jam in the pantry.  Each recipe (Certo insert) makes 4 cups of jelly.  This one made just a little bit more so I topped off the jelly in the fridge.

For the record, the best color comes from 3 drops of green and one drop of blue food coloring.

A Great Big Thank You!

One of the nice things about blogging is that I've met people from around the blogosphere and we've gotten to know each other over email.  Sort of like grown-up pen pals, but it's a lot easier to be in touch, send pictures, and so on.  Today I'd like to say thank you to Jeanine, who sent me this gift in the mail (and who will be getting a care package as soon as I can get to the post office):
It's the perfect size for a double batch of pancakes because you can use the electric mixer and it doesn't splatter everywhere.  The package arrived yesterday so of course I had to try it out this morning!
Thanks, Jeanine!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Herbal Experiment

After a long night at work and a 4-hour nap I felt refreshed enough to tackle that second batch of crabapple jelly.  Same recipe from the Certo package as yesterday, but today I put large sprigs of purple basil into 2 of the half-pint jars.  I have no idea if that will work, but I remember something about lavender and strawberries in the past and thought it might be interesting.  The purple basil came from the farm share.  Usually when there's basil I give it to Stephanie as I'm not too into pesto and I don't really have a whole lot of uses for fresh basil.  But the purple basil was pretty and I thought I might find a use for a little bit.  I split that bunch with her.  And voila, I have a use for it!  Purple basil looks really nice in the bubble-gum-pink jelly.  Will let you know how it tastes when we open it.

The crabapple jelly itself is really wonderful.  Just ask my 9 year old who scraped the pot clean!

Friday, August 12, 2011


Hey, Mom, does this look familiar?
When I was a kid we had what I always thought were apple trees in our backyard.  My grandmother visited in the late summer/fall and insisted that they were really large crabapples.  To this day I don't know which they were, but once she proclaimed them crabapples, that was it.  Then she made crabapple jelly.  She harvested countless crabapples, made juice and then jelly.  We had jars of jelly all over the house.  We used washed out condiment jars sealed with paraffin when we ran out of canning jars.  We were finding them years later, hidden in the storage room.  I think my parents may have found some when they moved out.

Today my friend, the same one who brought me the zucchini, brought me crabapples.  I've seen the trees.  They are the healthiest looking crabapple trees I've seen in a long time!  And not on the side of a road, either.  They are next to a little pond behind her apartment building.  It's very nice there.  I took those crabapples and trimmed them and boiled them to make juice.  I ended up with a very syrupy 6 cups of juice which I diluted with water almost in half to make less syrupy.  It was the perfect consistency at that point.  I then made one batch using the Certo recipe (5 cups juice, 7.5 cups sugar, 1 package Certo), which was just shy of 9 cups.  I offered my friend some.  She said, "You know, I don't really eat jams or jellies."  I convinced her to take a jar anyway.

The 9 year old had a glass of juice sweetened with just a little sugar and I have enough left for another batch of jelly.  Which I might make tomorrow.  I have to go to work tonight.  But I spent the day with fond memories of my grandmother.  And that's a pretty cool gift from a simple little fruit.

I Had Plans...

...to make a batch of Dilled Carrots.  I came home the other night and asked, "What did you have for dinner?"
     "We had hamburgers, and tomatoes and carrots."
     "The farm share carrots?"
     "Yeah, some."

So I have fewer jars of Dilled Carrots than I had planned.

This morning I made 1 pint of spears and 1 half-pint of pennies.  Same recipe, the one in the Ball Complete  Book of Home Preserving.  I can't be too upset.  They are, after all, eating vegetables.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blackberry Brambles

This afternoon I went to my brother's house and picked blackberries.  I might be the only one crazy enough to climb into the blackberry bushes to get to the berries in the back.  There is probably a good reason for this.  My arms look like I tried to pick up a stray cat.  A really angry, antisocial stray cat.

Regardless of how much blood was shed, Stephanie and I netted almost a quart of blackberries.  I brought them home to make jam for us and was saddened to learn I needed 2 quarts for a batch of jam.  I did have a pint of mulberries in the freezer so I added those.  I then tried to stem the mulberries, and one thing led to another and I found myself pushing a blackberry/mulberry puree I'd made in the Cuisinart through my fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.  To this I added 6.5 cups of sugar and a pouch of Certo and now have 5.5 cups of seedless jam.  Which is very gelled.  Yes, the proportions were off.  But that's OK - it doesn't appear to be fruit leather so it's better than some of the other concoctions...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Zucchini Relish

I came home yesterday and discovered a friend had brought me a zucchini.  It wasn't your standard zucchini.  It was one of those late-summer-mutant-because-we-have-zucchini-coming-out-our-ears zucchinis.  HUGE.  Funny thing was, she hadn't even grown it.  She knows someone who gave her several and, being overloaded with zucchini, she brought one to me.

Having never made zucchini pickles before, I thought this presented an excellent opportunity.  There was a collection of zucchini recipes in that new Better Homes & Gardens canning book and, of all of them, the zucchini relish seemed the most different from the other pickles in my pantry.  It calls for 5 cups of finely chopped zucchini.  I got all that and a little more from this one mutant squash.  I also threw in a farm share onion and some peppers from my garden (and half a store bought red one, for color).  The recipe claims to make 5 half-pints but I ended up with 3 pints because all the veggies were in slightly larger amounts than called for.  I did keep the liquid and spice measurements the same and there was still more than enough liquid.

The cookbook claims this tastes good on fried green tomatoes.  That would imply that one is capable of making fried green tomatoes that don't look like little charred hockey pucks. Maybe I ought to try them again sometime...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy Housewarming!

One of our friends has a new place to live so my husband wanted to bring him some goodies.  Sure thing!  I'm always glad to share my creations.  To warm his new home he now has:

Dill Pickles, Dilled Carrots, Strawberry Margarita Jam, Muscat Grape Jelly, Blackberry Jam, and Mango Quince Jam.

Be well in your new home!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blue Sunday...

Yesterday I was blue because I had to go to work.  But the kids were blue because they got blueberry waffles!  We went back to the blueberry spot on Saturday and picked about a quart of berries.  It's almost the end of the season now, so we won't be going back this year.  The blackberries, however, are just peaking.  They were so sweet and yummy!

So yesterday my husband made a big batch of blueberry waffles and they had a feast.  I'm envious.  But there are a few in the freezer, waiting for me...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Feeling Blue

Not "sad" blue, but blueberry blue!

A week ago we checked out our favorite blueberry spot and it was evident they would be ripe soon.  Well, with several days of 100 degree weather between then and now, we thought we'd try again today.  We spent 3 hours picking, and picking, and picking, all the while being thankful it was only 85 degrees today.  We brought home 2 quarts which have been washed, sorted, and frozen into 1-cup baggies for baking.  There are still plenty more and we might go again.  I still have so much jam from last year that I'm not planning on making a batch this year.

I also finished the half-bushel of cucumbers today.  I made 6 quarts of dill sandwich slices, using the "Best Ever Dill Pickle" recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens Canning book I bought a little while ago.  I also made 7 pints of bread and butter pickles using the recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and then added sliced habanero to the rest and put up 4 pints of spicy bread and butters.