Saturday, May 28, 2011

I'm Ready for Strawberries

Last year I had a flat of strawberries and no rhubarb. Horrors! For some reason, despite the fact that they go really well together, nature does not cooperate and produce them at the same time. So I have to plan ahead.

Today I saw rhubarb in the grocery store. So I bought 3 pounds and froze it all after dicing it. Add that to the 2 pounds I froze last summer, and I am totally ready! Strawberry rhubarb pie and jam are in our near future!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Fruit hybrids fascinate me. Why are some hybrids of plums and apricots called "pluots" and others "apriums?" (I know, I could just look it up. But I'd rather ponder.)

Yesterday at Whole Foods I found apriums on sale. They look like little apricots. They smell like little apricots. They aren't as fuzzy. That's about the only difference as far as I can tell. I bought a couple of pounds and today made a batch of aprium jam. It's basically apricot. I used the recipe in the Certo package - 3.5 cups of finely chopped fruit, 1/3 c. lemon juice and 5.75 c. sugar to one package of Certo. Made exactly 7 half-pint jars. Just what it said it would.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Back to Cooking with Flowers

On my last post about Violet Jelly, fullfreezer suggested lilacs. Well, they're certainly plentiful in New England this time of year, yes? So, last night I gathered some lilacs. Laboriously plucked them off the green parts until I had 2 heaping cups. Steeped them in 2 cups of boiling water and let them rest until this evening. Then I strained them and we had another demonstration of the wonders of chemistry. This one went from pale brown to bright pink when the lemon juice (1/4 cup) was added - everyone oooed and ahhed appropriately and then took off.

4 cups of sugar and a package of pectin later, and I have 4 half-pint jars and 1 half-cup jar of pinky-purple lilac jelly. Which tastes suspiciously like the violet jelly. But it smells like lilacs. And that's really nice.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Non-Cooking Interlude

In case you haven't noticed, I have a thing about skills.

In particular, I want to master skills that are old, that are things our predecessors knew. Food preservation is part of that. Canning, sausage making, cheese making, these are all just scratching the surface. Foraging is something I'd like more guidance with. This past weekend I took a big step for me and participated in a Wilderness Survival Skills course. I have never packed so light for a weekend in the woods and now I know I can pack even lighter. I'm much more comfortable starting a fire and getting really close to it to tend it. I now understand the basics of shelter building.

Another thing I know? That my husband and I make an incredible team.

Friday, May 6, 2011

More Violets

I've been giving away those little jars of violet jelly because they're just so unusual. When I give one away, the recipient says, "Oh, violet jelly. Thanks! Wait...REAL violets?" And then I launch into a description, and it's really fun to share such an unexpected thing with people!

So today I made a second batch and used it as a teachable moment with the 9 year old to discuss pH and litmus tests. I'm totally geeking out about that one little step in the process - adding the lemon juice and letting the violet water change color. For some reason, that makes me happy. Chemistry in everyday life!

I also made a batch of mascarpone cheese and used half of it to make strawberry-raspberry soup. I put the mascarpone in a blender with half a cup of orange juice, a half-pint of raspberries and a quart of strawberries and about 3 T. honey. Once blended, I chilled it until dinnertime and served garnished with a few berries. Sometimes we do this when it's too warm to cook; tonight we also had shrimp cocktail and bread. No cooking involved.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sweet and Sour

Hooray for Spring!

Fiddleheads were in the store yesterday. After last year's fiasco, I decided I was better off just pickling them again. I found a series of recipes on the University of Maine website and today made the Sweet Pickled Fiddleheads and the Quick Sour Fiddlehead Pickles. Here are the recipes, sized down to what I had:

Sweet Pickled Fiddleheads
1 pint cider vinegar
2.5 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

which was way more syrup than I needed for the 1 pint of fiddleheads I had packed into 2 half-pint jars. Likely it'd be enough for 4-6 half-pint jars.

Quick Sour Fiddlehead Pickles
1 pint cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup mustard seeds

this was a more reasonable amount for the 3 half-pint jars of fiddleheads, but could easily have filled 4.

Both pickles were processed for 10 minutes in the boiling water canner and we'll see how they turn out!