Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Whole Lot of Baking Going On

This has been a busy week for baking things.  First we had to celebrate the one-year-anniversary of getting Mocha, our rabbit.  He got a carrot.  We got carrot cake.  Brasilian Carrot Cake, to be exact.  Here's the recipe, so I'll have it digitally in addition to on a little scrap of paper.

Brasilian Carrot Cake

3 large or 5 medium carrots
1 cup oil
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
dash of salt
1.5 tsp. baking powder

Blend the carrots, oil and eggs in a blender until smooth.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and pour into a greased 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or so until done.  Poke holes in the cake with a fork.


4 T. cocoa
2 T. butter
2 T. milk
2 T. sugar

Cook this together for a few minutes and then pour over the cake while it is cooling.  The glaze should ooze into the holes you made with the fork.

We ate the cake while he sat on his chair and stared at us.  I think he was feeling rather full from his carrot.

Then, 2 nights later, the 11 year old had a birthday party.  I take requests, of course, and this one was a chocolate cake with raspberry filling and milk chocolate ganache.  Voila!
By the time 14 people (2 adults and 12 children) got to it, this is all that was left.
Yesterday morning for breakfast, I made blueberry kumquat muffins.  I made standard muffins and threw in 1 cup of wild blueberries and about 1 T. chopped candied kumquats.  Each muffin the got a kumquat half on top before they baked.  Even the 8 year old ate 3 muffins.  I never cease to be surprised at what gets eaten and what doesn't...

No baking today.  We went to the Edward Gorey Museum in Yarmouthport, MA.  The rest of the afternoon was spent elaborating upon the Gashleycrumb Tinies.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nettle and Mascarpone Pasta

Until my bike started having issues I was having a nice bike ride today on the path.  I passed the hops and autumn olives and rode on, past the nettles and the crabapples and some grapes.  Then my bike lost a small but apparently somewhat important screw and I had to go home.  Fortunately, the bike was ridable but I couldn't risk going further in case it suddenly wasn't.

On the way back, I stopped at the nettle patch and grabbed a bag full.  I'd planned ahead, with gardening gloves and scissors, but I still got stung on my wrist above the glove because the patch was pretty dense.  Then I rode on and stopped again at the black walnut tree and picked up a few more walnuts.  All told, I biked 12 miles.

Black Walnuts after roasting
While the new walnuts were drying, I cracked the other batch with a vise, pulled out the nutmeats and roasted them for 30 minutes at 200 degrees.  These are in the fridge in a little jar, and maybe I'll add them to my oatmeal.  Then I set to work making something with those nettles.  First I blanched them and left them in a strainer while I made a sauce.

Borrowing on this recipe for spinach and mascarpone cheese sauce, I substituted nettles for the spinach and shallot for the onion.  Here's the recipe, so I have it:

2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup milk
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg
blanched nettles
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Whisk the milk and mascarpone together.  Saute the garlic and shallot in 1 T. butter and 1 T. olive oil about a minute or two, until soft.  Add the nettles and the milk/cheese mixture and mix.  Let this boil and thicken for a minute or two.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg.  Add the parmesan.  Toss with pasta, serve with a little extra nutmeg on top.

I tossed thin spaghetti with the sauce and served with extra parmesan cheese.  Yum.  I think this might be my favorite form of nettles yet!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


OK, now I'm just being silly.

Even so, every Wednesday I walk around the stables and look for foragable things.  Like autumn olives, and grapes.  Yesterday I discovered that the crabapple tree had actual crabapples, not the stunted little rocks it usually has.  I tasted one and it was pretty good even though it was a little sour.  I hit upon a plan (uh oh, we know how these things go....).

I combined the autumn olives (1 cup), wild grapes (1 quart) and crabapples (1 quart) in a pot and covered them with 5 cups of water.  This was simmered and crushed and strained through a jelly bag last night.  I got a little over 4 cups of pink, syrupy juice.  This morning I added 1.5 cups of sugar and another pint of water and made juice for canning.  Using the instructions for grape juice, I heated the juice to 190 degrees for 5 minutes and then put it into pint jars (3) and now will process for 15 minutes.  I'm trying to come up with a good name for it.  "Crabby Autumn Grape Juice" is so far the best contender.

Gingerbread Pears

There's a nice little orchard/farm not far from the stables and every Wednesday after riding we stop and get peaches.  Sometimes we get other fruit, like plums or apples, and lately they have had really good, tiny Bartlett pears.  Yesterday there was a quart of them that were perfectly ripe, so I bought them and quickly realized I needed to use up about 6 of them in the next day.  I decided to poach the pears.

First I thought about poaching them in wine, but then I thought that might not be something the kids would like.  So I found a recipe for poaching them with ginger and I strayed a bit from the recipe:

Gingerbread Poached Pears

4 small Bartlett pears, halved and cored
1.5 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup crystalized ginger
2 T. molasses

Boil the water, sugar and ginger for 5 minutes to make a light syrup.  Add the pears and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the pears, add the molasses and boil again, reducing the volume of the syrup until it's as thick as you like.  Pour over the pears.  Voila! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

More Applesauce

I don't want to use up all the honey-crisps for cooking, since they're such good eating apples, but I did want to make a batch of chunky applesauce.  So I used 9 honey-crisps and the last 3 Cortlands and made some.  The apples were peeled, chopped into about a 1/2 to 3/4 inch dice and mixed with 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup water, some cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg and then cooked until soft but not disintegrating.  This made exactly 2 quarts, which is now in the canner (20 minutes, then rest for 5 minutes before removing).

One of these days I'll work on all those tomatoes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pie Crust Perfection

Having made apple bread/cake and applesauce so far with the apples, it was time to make a pie!

Today's crust was half leaf lard and half butter.  I've made a lot of apple pies and I think it might just have been The. Best. Ever.

I also baked it a touch longer and that seemed to help as the apples were so soft they were almost sauce.  Almost.  But certainly not crunchy or tough.  So:  15 minutes covered at 450 and then 20 minutes covered at 375, then 40 minutes uncovered at 375.

(I almost stopped writing after "butter."  Really, there isn't much else to say!)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Apple Picking Day

We always try to go apple picking every fall.  Last year we went while we were camping, so not to our usual place.  This year we returned to our usual haunt, and tried to get there early enough to make it enjoyable.  It claimed it opened at 10 am, but we got there at 9:55 and the place was already full of cars.  However, the apples were plentiful and we filled almost the whole half-bushel with honey-crisps.  In the past we've been limited to 8 or 10 honey-crisps.  It took less than 20 minutes to fill our bag.  Once the apples were safely stashed in the car, we had cider donuts, ran in the hay bale maze, oohed and ahhed at the bunnies, and went home.

Once we got home I made a double batch of apple cake but put it in 4 loaf pans and now I have 3 loaves of apple bread in the freezer and one for tonight.  Then I made a tabouli salad from the farm share tomatoes, parsley, and scallions.  Then I made a batch of applesauce from the honey-crisps:  12 apples, 1 cup water and then, after everything went through the food mill, I added 3/4 cup honey.  So now it's honeyed honey-crisp applesauce.  Mmm.

Then we made caramel apples (and pear, for the apple-allergic) and devoured them.  Good thing we only do that once a year!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Out of My Hands

Well, the canning entries are submitted!

Ultimately, I entered 5 classes:  Raspberry Jam, Other Jam (Lime Black Raspberry), Grape Jelly (not Concord), Other Jelly (Rose Hip), and the selection of 3 jams (Triple Berry, Wild Blueberry, Wild Blackberry).  While I was there I met some very nice people also dropping off their entries.  One woman gave me her recipe for eggplant caponata which looks like a great way to use eggplant.  I have no idea when I'll find out the results, but wish me luck!

Friday, September 13, 2013

I Really Ought to be Sleeping

Tonight I'm working the overnight and I need to be taking a nap.  But I figured I had some canning to do, so maybe I should tire myself out first?

The peck of apples made 4.5 quarts of applesauce - smooth with white sugar (note to self:  2.5 cups for the whole peck) which will make the 8 year old very happy.  We opened our last jar a week or so ago.  The food mill didn't give me any trouble today, either, which is nice.

I also roasted those poblano peppers.  Unfortunately a few went bad in the fridge so I didn't have as many as I planned.  But I had about 7 smallish peppers, and 2 red jalapeños, so I roasted those too.  After taking off the skins, I stuffed each poblano pepper with shredded "Mexican mix" cheese and topped them with a little more.  The jalapeños went on the edges of the dish.  I'll bake them for dinner; they'll make a nice little side dish.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tomatillo Salsa

This week the entire farm share came to me - which is rather daunting.  I now have:  2 pounds beets, 1 pound carrots, 1 pound peppers, 1 pound + 1 quart tomatoes, 3 garlic heads, 1/2 pound of shallots, a bunch of huge scallions, 1 bowl of arugula, 1 bowl of mixed greens, 2 pounds eggplant, 3 delicata squashes, 1 peck of apples, 1 head of cabbage (add that to the 2 I already had at home), a quart of tomatillos, a pint of hot peppers, parsley, and a handful of cilantro and a few raspberries.  I didn't even try to get the blackberries, husk cherries, or flowers.  That was enough!  In addition to cabbage at home I still had beets, peppers and poblano peppers from last week.

There were 3 tomatillos in my kitchen from last week and when I added them to the quart from today it was just enough to make a batch of Tomatillo Salsa.  I used garlic, cilantro and hot peppers from the farm share, although I used red jalapeños rather than green chiles.  So it isn't really a salsa verde, it's more Navidad, perhaps?  I also did not have enough plain cumin, so I used what I had and added a little of the cardi (coriander and cumin mix).  Still, it made just over 4 cups which are in 3 jars: 2 half-pints and one pint.

I have a plan to make more tabouli salad tomorrow, to use the scallions, parsley and some of the tomatoes.  If I don't use up all the tomatoes I'll freeze them in my collection for sauce.  Someday I'll have time.  The apples will get made into applesauce soon as well.  I also have a collection of poblano peppers that I hope to roast a little and maybe stuff with cheese or something.  I'll figure something out. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bike Path Bounty

The hops in the wild
After receiving a tip from a friend, I went looking on a bike path for wild hops.  We thought it might be fun to make beer with them and see what happens.  We went for a ride and I found nothing, but I did see grapes, and nettles, and crabapples (the grapes and crabapples were rather tasty).  So I went back on foot, thinking I must have just been going too fast.  Turns out that was the case, and I found all sorts of wild hops.

Drying the hops
Dried hops, ready to brew
I gathered about a quart, maybe more, and at home the total weight was 97g.  Then I dried them in the oven for a while and reweighed them: 27g.  While I was out on the path, however, I found autumn olives and black walnuts.  I am not sure if I'm going to go crazy over the autumn olives this year, but this shrub was plentiful, so maybe I'll go back for them.  I also snagged 28 black walnuts off the tree, so before they fell and got all nasty.  They've been husked by me driving over them with the car (there were 30 nuts, but 2 got crushed by the car) and are now drying for a few weeks.  Then I'll crack them open and see what I get.  Last year I was disappointed that the nutmeats were dried out so I am hoping that by getting them directly off the tree that won't be the case.

I checked with another homebrewing neighbor and now have a plan for these hops - we'll add them for aroma at the end of the fermentation cycle.  They smelled wonderful while they were drying in the oven!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nice Day for Raspberries

It's a really beautiful day:  sunny, not that hot, and not a cloud in the sky.  The kids are back in school and it's raspberry time!

I went out to the farm today and picked almost 4 quarts of berries.  It was just under 4 pounds!  I had to make two trips to fill my bag of quart boxes so I could be sure I had enough.  While it wasn't as bad as last year with regard to the infestation problem, it still wasn't that relaxing as it was crowded and somewhat noisy.  Oh, well.  Not everyone goes there to think, I guess.  I brought the berries home and ran most of them through the food mill (I think I have a pint left).  Once I got the 5 cups of puree, I made a batch of jam with the powdered pectin.

As I only had 2 half-pint jars left and I want to enter this jam in the fair, I made sure they were as perfect as I could get them - no foam or bubbles!  The rest went into 4 pint jars and they were all processed for 10 minutes.  I am done with all the things I planned to make to enter in the fair so now I'll be moving on to apples, peaches and tomatoes when I am ready.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wild Grape Jelly

A few days ago my friend brought over almost 5 pounds of grapes she found growing wild in her yard.  This is the same yard with the violets and a menagerie of wild animals:  groundhogs, herons, hawks, mice, frogs and turtles, deer, and likely a fox or a coyote for good measure.  She has spent all year watching what grows and trying to identify it and the grapes were a surprise find.

I froze them until today since I didn't want them to go bad while I was finding the time to make jelly.  Today I brought them all out, added 2 cups of water, and simmered and crushed and simmered again.  Then I ran them through a jelly bag and got a little over 4 cups of juice.  I added enough water to get 5 cups, and then I made jelly with powdered pectin and 7 cups of sugar.  This made 9 cups of jelly and a little extra for tasting.  It's a little tart, just sweet enough, and a nice reddish purple color.  This is another one I plan to enter in the fair, under the "Other Grape Jelly" category since I am quite sure they're not Concord grapes.