Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Patience = Cheese

The cheeses I made back in April arrived in the mail today.  I wasn't really sure how that was going to work out, it being summer and, while not as hot as a few weeks ago, still pretty warm for cheese.  They arrived in a little box without any particular insulation and they were fine.  Go figure.  I guess cheese is fairly hardy stuff!

The cheese on the right is the cow's milk cheddar and the one on the left is the sheep's milk reblochon.  Both were aged for a while longer than planned, more like 100 days rather than 60.  The texture wasn't what I was expecting but they both tasted good and you could tell the difference between the two.  The cheddar was sharper but still had a creamy texture.  The sheep milk one smelled, well, more sheepy.

We had a lovely dinner of bread, cheese, pate and charcuterie, grapes, cherries and chocolate.

Monday, July 29, 2013


It's the first batch of soup in ages, and one of the jars broke in the canner!

I really hate it when that happens, it's such a mess to clean up.  But I still have 13 pints of beef and barley soup anyway.  I made it basically like the last batch but left out the wine and the tomato paste (and the last minute veggies) and used extra celery and carrots (the carrots, at least, are from the farm share).  I also had leftover "Slow Cooker Osso Buco" in the freezer to add, so that replaced the tomato paste.  The other part that was different was that I didn't really cook the barley before I put it in the jars, since that way the barley would cook up but not thicken up the soup as much as previous batches.  This was processed in the pressure canner for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  I am pretty sure I heard the jar break at the beginning of the processing time.  At that point, there is just nothing to do but wait until it's all done and deal with the mess.

The freezers are progressively getting emptier.  Which is a good thing.  I've been slowly working on this for a while because we've been having technical difficulties with our ice maker and so have had to defrost the kitchen freezer once already.  I discovered all sorts of things hiding in there so made a plan to start using up what I have.  Then I can start fresh when things go on sale and I'll have space to put it all! 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Two weeks ago we started a batch of beer.  We're still new at this, so we used a kit, but it was of "intermediate difficulty," which meant we had to steep the grains ourselves.  Once we had the batch made it sat in the basement near the boiler and did its thing.  Last week we transferred it to the 5 gallon carboy, the second rack, and let it sit again.  Last night we felt it was ready to bottle.

Since it's only been a year and a half since the last batch, not 10+ years, it went more smoothly.  There was far less mess than the last time and no one got doused in beer.  Everything was sanitized, the priming sugar was dissolved in boiling water and put in the big bucket, and then the beer was siphoned into that.  It tastes like flat beer, like it should, but I have no idea what the alcohol content is because, apparently, I cannot read a hydrometer.  My first pass at calculations led to a result of 0.78% alcohol, which can't possibly be right.  The second pass at it yielded 13%, which also can't be right.  I gave up at that point and figured that as long as it tasted good it was ready.

At first we filled the larger bottles - we have 12 32-ounce bottles with the snap-on caps (like the ones for glass jars with the rubber gaskets) so that held most of the batch.  Then we filled regular beer bottles with the rest and capped them with standard bottle caps.  There's 9 and a half bottles of that size.  Given how quickly the beer fermented in the first place, they might be ready to drink in a week.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Doesn't Add Up

Today I finished up all those wild blueberries by making blueberry sauce.  But I just do not understand how 7 cups of berries + almost 4 cups of liquids + over a cup of sugar = 6 cups sauce.  I mean, I get that things cook down and all, but that seems like an awful lot.  Doesn't it?

Anyway, the recipe is in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and it uses 1 lemon (zest and juice) and 7 cups of berries.  The rest is apple juice, sugar and corn syrup.  We'll be trying this very soon.  Maybe on some pound cake or something.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gifts of Blueberry

The kids were vacationing with their grandparents and returned the other night, bearing gifts:  maple syrup, a freshly laid egg, and 10 cups of wild blueberries!

Add that to the gallon my husband and I picked on Saturday and that is... let me see... carry the 1... a WHOLE LOT of wild blueberries!  I already had a plan to make jam, but that only took 6 cups.  I froze 8 cups into 1-cup servings for pancakes and waffles.  Last night I made a cobbler with another 6 cups, and that was terrific!  Here's the recipe I used, repeated here mainly so I don't have to keep looking at the photo on my phone that I took of the recipe:

6 T. butter, softened
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1 cup boiling water

Spread the berries in a 9 x 13 baking pan.  Cream the butter and the sugar, add the milk and mix until smooth.  Add the flour and the baking powder, mix and spread the batter over the berries.  Then mix the 1 cup of sugar and the cornstarch, sprinkle over the top of the batter, then pour the boiling water all over everything.  Bake at 350 for an hour.  Perfection!

Today I took the 6 cups I'd frozen to make the jam and did that, using the recipe for powdered pectin - 6 cups berries, crushed, pectin and 4 cups of sugar.  It made a total of 7 cups and I couldn't help but lick the pot afterwards!  So so so good!  Even the ornery 8 year old, who didn't want to like it, liked it.  Six of the jars are the half-pints and 2 are half-cup jars, to add to the gift stash.

Lastly, at the request of the 11 year old, I will be making blueberry sauce.  Apparently the farm at which they were staying makes it and it seems as good a use as any!  It sounds like it's a little like a blueberry syrup so that would have plenty of uses in our house!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dill Pickles

Well, I got home from my shift, got a nap, and then felt good enough to get started on a batch of dill pickles.  I always use the recipe from the American Family Cookbook but I'll rewrite it here (I make a double batch, which makes 7 quarts):

6 cups cider vinegar
6 cups water
3/4 cup kosher salt
28 cloves garlic, halved
dill seed

Once the brine is boiled (vinegar, water, salt and garlic) then each hot quart jar is filled with 8 garlic halves, 6 peppercorns, 4 T. dill seeds and sliced cucumbers and filled with the brine, leaving half an inch of headspace.  Then they are processed for 10 minutes and I leave them in, off the heat, for 5 minutes after so they don't siphon or anything.  Most of my cucumbers were too long but 3 or 4 of my jars have smaller, whole cucumbers mixed in with the slices.  I also made a point of cutting off the blossom ends from the slices since I read somewhere that they can get mushy if you leave them on.

The finally tally for a peck of cucumbers:  15 pints of bread and butter pickles and 7 quarts of dills.  Plus 6 for eating.  I think we're set for a while, on pickles, anyway!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


My work schedule over this weekend has been very, very strange.  I worked until 8 pm on Friday and until 2 am last night (but didn't really leave until 2:30, just finishing up a few things) and tonight I'm doing an overnight.  So I slept until 10:30 am, and then my husband and I spent all day working around the house:  cleaning, painting, and canning.  Oh, and laundry.  There's always laundry!

2 nights ago we transferred the beer to the big glass carboy for its second rack.  Likely it'll be ready to be bottled by next weekend.  And I added the wine to the sauerkraut and it's in its crock with the waterseal and I'll leave it for a week and then check it.

I am trying to carve out time to finish that peck of cucumbers so I hastily made another batch of the same bread and butter pickles I made the other day.  I am now out of turmeric, sugar, and mustard seed.  I guess I have to get to the store!  Oh, and I still have about half a peck left... I guess I'll see how I feel tomorrow and try to make some other kind of pickles.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pickles and 'Kraut

Today was one of those rare days when I didn't have to be too many places so I made it a canning day. I drove down to that farm that's about an hour away for a peck of pickling cukes, visited my parents, and then drove back up to pick up the farm share and headed home.  As soon as I got home, I set to work on 2 batches of bread and butter pickles.  (Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, for future reference...)

Once the cukes and onions (6 cebolla onions from the farm share) were soaking in salt and water, I started shredding 3 heads of cabbage to make sauerkraut.  It's my first opportunity to use my new crock!  2 regular green cabbages and 1 Napa cabbage made about 5 pounds, to which I added 3 T. kosher salt and packed into the crock.  I topped it with some of the outer cabbage leaves and the special weights that came with the crock.  Tomorrow I'll add the white wine and let it sit for a few weeks.  The crock has a water seal, but I'll do that after I add the wine.  I did use the KitchenAid slicer attachment and it made a tremendous mess, in particular with the Napa cabbage.  Doesn't really work so well for that one!

Then I turned back to the bread and butter pickles.  I had to do them in 2 batches because each batch made 5 pints and I can only fit about 7 or 8 pints in my canning pot.  I didn't want to have a repeat of the jar-breaking disasters of the past.  See?  I can be taught.  All in all, I have 10 pints of bread and butter pickles and 2/3 of a peck of cucumbers left.  Maybe I'll make more dills, but I do have about 5 quarts left from previous batches.  So, not really sure what to do with them.  Suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Works In Progress

Generally, I like to post about completed projects but since a couple are in various stages of completion I figured I'd better write them down!

1. The blueberry season is starting, and I went the other day to my favorite spot and picked a pint of wild berries.  There are TONS waiting to ripen so we'll go back in a week and spend the morning to get more. Then I'll make a batch of jam and get some in the freezer for baking/pancakes.  I kept dovetailing with a Russian-speaking couple as we all hunted for berries on the hillside.  The weather was gorgeous for a change; it was refreshing to be out in the sun for 2 hours on a Friday afternoon!

2. My husband and I started a batch of beer last night.  This is a chocolate oatmeal stout.  The first stage of the beer-making process always takes more time than I think it will - the grain steeping took 45 minutes and the hops-boiling took an hour. The hops-cooling took even longer!  Maybe if we're going to do this more often we will need to invest in a wort chiller.  During all this we made dinner, ate dinner, and watched an episode of Sherlock.  Not a terrible way to spend a Saturday night!

3. Very soon I plan to start a batch of sauerkraut.  I have a regular cabbage and a Napa cabbage and I get to use my new crock!  I just need to get some white wine since I like that recipe best.  I might even enter this sauerkraut in the fair; if I'm going to enter some of my jams, why not other things?

4. In the past few days I also made a batch of yogurt and have been working through both the farm share and the produce from our mason's garden.  I made stuffed zucchini 2 nights ago.  The stuffing was onions and peppers sauteed with ground beef, salt and pepper, then the zucchini pulp and some parsley were added.  I stuffed these into the parboiled zucchini halves and then topped them with bechamel sauce and baked them for half an hour.  They were terrific!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When Life Gives You Zucchini

Make chocolate zucchini bread!

I've made this before, but it's worth repeating.  This chocolate zucchini bread recipe is fabulous.  And it makes two loaves!  Even better.  The bread came out of the oven an hour ago and we've already eaten half a loaf.  No guilt, either, because of the zucchini.

The zucchini came to me by way of our mason who asked us over so he could give me things from the garden.  We got 2 monster sized zucchini, some celery, peppers, swiss chard, a white eggplant, and a LOT of basil.  I'm drying most of the basil; and I have a plan to make a stuffed zucchini with the other one.  The rest we'll work through.  Soon.  The farm share pick up is tomorrow!

Monday, July 8, 2013

This Might Be the One...

...to enter in the Fair!

Last year we went to the Topsfield Fair for the first time and I was particularly interested in the canning competition.  People at work have told me for years I should enter my jams.  I thought it might be fun to try it.  I wanted a jam that would make people melt with how good it tastes.  I think today's batch just might be it.

The black raspberries in Ohio were ripe when we were there last week so I enlisted the 11 y/o and my niece and we went early on Friday and picked about 5 pounds.  I set aside 2 quarts for jam, which I froze so I could bring them home, 1 quart for a cobbler, and the rest for eating.  The "rest" were eaten in less than a day.  Yum!  And the cobbler was fabulous.  I might have to make that instead of crisps from now on!

For the jam, I ran some of the berries through a sieve to get rid of the seeds and the rest I just mashed, added 1/4 cup lime juice, 6.5 cups of sugar and the pectin.  This made almost exactly 8 cups of jam, just as it was supposed to.  I have 6 8-ounce jars and 4 4-ounce jars as I've been working on the gift stash all spring.

And that taste, oh!  It makes me weak at the knees!