Monday, December 26, 2016

The Fruits of All Our Labor

Yesterday after the meal and the presents and driving around to look at light displays it was too late and I was too tired to post anything about dinner. But it was lovely.

Once again, the ducks were roasted to perfection. They seemed to be bigger than previous years so three had a hard time fitting in the oven. When it came time at the end to crisp them up, we had to separate them into different broiling pans to give them space. From them I rendered six pints of fat for this year's confits and other yummy things. They were served with Persian rice with barberries (zereshk polo), roasted sunchokes and green beans. For dessert there were Nanaimo bars and the chocolate sweet potato pie. With the bourbon whipped cream. Of course.
Today after work I simmered the remaining duck meat in a tikka masala sauce from a jar, to which I added a little garam masala to boost the flavor. We served this over more of the rice and there were various cheeses and a panettone as well. Then we went to go see "Rogue One." A thoroughly entertaining evening!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Feasts

So many intriguing recipes, so little time!

Since we're roasting ducks today for our Christmas dinner, we'll be rendering duck fat. (And later I'll take all the duck livers and make paté.) But that meant it was time to get rid of all the duck fat I've saved up from last year. There were 6 or 7 pints of it and I've used it throughout the year to make confit, in baking, and as a topping on vegetables instead of butter. While it could probably last longer I felt that turnover was a good thing and found a recipe for which I could use up a bunch.


Not just ordinary donuts! Duck fat donuts. Actually the recipe calls for duck confit to be stuffed inside the donuts but I didn't have any confit nor the will to take two days to make some, so I just made the dough and deep fried them as a side for dinner last night. It turns out the initial step is to make a sort of poolish from yeast, milk and flour and waiting an hour. If I do these again, I might try using a cup of Legion for this step. It'll save time and might add something interesting to the flavor. Anyway, once the donuts are rolled into little balls, they are deep fried in duck fat. They came out perfectly! Light and fluffy and ever so slightly gamey. And really not that hard.

Dinner last night consisted of maple-bourbon steak tips, fresh fruit, these donuts, and chicken milk. Which is what we call eggnog ever since the elderchild took French and learned that the French word for eggnog is lait de poule. Chicken milk.

Friday, December 23, 2016


Today was a day of last minute shopping, even if it was just for food!

I picked up the ducks that we'll be roasting on Sunday, and some other groceries, and we went to the Korean super-mega-grocery-store for lunch. It's on the way to the mall, which we generally try to avoid by this point in the holiday season, and with good reason. As we were heading back home, the traffic to the mall was backed up for miles!

Also this morning I made our pie for Sunday, chocolate sweet potato. Yum. This is definitely my favorite, I think. I'd had the sweet potato purée in the freezer so thawed that out and then, since it wasn't hot, I melted the chocolate to mix with it rather than toss chocolate chips into warm purée and letting them melt. Everything else was basically the same. Oh, except I tried something different with the crust edge. I'd hoped for some sort of braid or basketweave but that wasn't working out so instead I just twisted strips of dough together. I think it came out rather pretty in the end, don't you? When we're ready to serve dessert I'll make the bourbon whipped cream to go with it.

Tomorrow I have to work; I'm hoping that it's not too crazy and I get out at a reasonable time. Today we went and delivered a lot of the neighborhood gifts, but there are six more houses to go and I want to try to get as many delivered as possible before Sunday. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Holiday Preparations

And giving!

I've managed to give out at least two dozen jars already, to my coworkers, various friends and teachers. I have another two dozen to get to my neighbors which will happen in the next day or so.

Today, however, I took that chicken stock I made a week ago and made another batch of chicken soup; this one was for canning. I wanted quarts this time, so 1 full gallon of stock plus chicken meat, turkey meat, 2 leeks, some celery and carrots were simmered for about an hour. I added egg noodles but then didn't let them cook. Instead, I immediately canned the soup. Normally, when you add something starchy like noodles or rice to a soup you're going to can, they absorb all the liquid during the canning process and you're left with a big gelatinous mass. This time, by canning the soup with uncooked noodles, they cooked the right amount without getting too oversoaked. What I am left with is chicken noodle soup that looks rather appetizing instead of condensed!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Today I converted 4 pounds of bacon into about 7 cups of bacon jam. I used this recipe from Martha Stewart but, since I was scaling up, made a few changes:

1. Instead of just coffee, I used half coffee, half bourbon.
2. The vinegar was about 1/3 sherry vinegar and the rest was cider vinegar.
3. I used a mixture of yellow and red onions.

I decided not to pressure can these, partly because I only had jars of varying sizes and so there is a lack of consistency. They will be stored in the fridge and freezer instead; eight jars in all.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Rainy Slushy Day

An overcast, cold, slushy day is the perfect day to work on some canning projects!

I pulled out 4 ziploc bags of chicken bones from the freezer and made stock this morning. Four quarts are set aside for canning later and I might set aside more. It depends, as I'm also making chicken soup and we'll see how much I need. So the rest of the morning was spent cleaning out the freezer a bit, reorganizing, and pulling chicken meat off bones.

Also this morning, I made a 2.5x batch of Cranberry Rhubarb Compote, which made 13 cups of compote. Of those, 12 got canned and are just coming out of the canner now. My gift stash is quite complete, I think, but I always add more and more people to my list so I have to double check!

Another thing that I've been working on is baking. I've baked about 12 dozen cookies so far in the last week: Oatmeal Scotchies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Orange-Hazelnut sandwiches. I have a plan to give some to the staff at work, and I want to make more cookies for home as well. I might have to make some gingerbread cookies soon!

Friday, December 2, 2016

My Continued Earl Grey Fixation

So, as promised, I made Earl Grey Vienna Finger Cookie ice cream for the youngerchild. Who am I kidding? It's really for me!

First I made a creme anglaise, using milk that was steeped with Earl Grey tea for thirty minutes. Then I chilled that until it was time to freeze it in the ice cream maker. At the last minute I tossed broken cookies into the ice cream maker and then froze the mixed ice cream until dessert time.

The tea was a gift from a friend and is one of those teas with the little blue flowers in it. It also seems to have pieces of bergamot peel. It's amazing. It's from the Spice and Tea Exchange. Mmm.

The only problem with making a lot of ice cream is that the recipe only uses egg yolks, not the whites. Now I have a lot of egg whites waiting for something to do. Maybe there will be some macarons in the near future?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cookies for School

The elderchild's school is having a cookie reception to launch their annual Toys for Tots drive. Even though I just did all that cooking, I volunteered to make two dozen cookies for the event. I pulled out the syllabus from pastry school and made these beauties, which are essentially shortbread with apricot jam filling and dipped in chocolate. 'Nuff said.

The Finished Product

Here's our table from last night's feast!

The turkey, brined for two days, was perfect. There was stuffing. Mashed red potatoes. Creamed (well, sort of) broccoli, mashed squash. Pumpkin bread made by my sister-in-law and sent with my in-laws. The sweet potato casserole was made by my Mom, although we did the marshmallows on top here at the last minute. I got a little distracted and so they had a smokey je ne sais quois which, heh, augmented their flavor. Really, they were only burnt a little!

Plus, cranberry sauce, gravy, pickled beets and eggs, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and two different kinds of macarons brought from Zurich and London by a friend who joined us for dinner.

I am thankful for all the love and joy in my life and that I have time to sit back and savor it once in a while. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's Your Pie

Yes, I'm aware I'm a day late. As usual, I worked on Thanksgiving and planned my celebration for today. That doesn't mean we didn't also celebrate yesterday; we went down to Faneuil Hall and had dinner at Durgin Park. Faneuil Hall is all decked out with lights and Christmas trees and was so pretty in the drizzly fog. And it wasn't tremendously cold, either, which was nice.

Over the past few days I've been getting my side dishes and pies ready for today. I used my last three butternut squashes from the farm share, and used two jars of my pickled beets to make the beets and eggs my mother-in-law likes so much. And I've made three pies.

The pumpkin pies were first, because I planned to take one to work yesterday. I made the crust the usual way but it was too dry and crumbly so it gave me some trouble. I also had a little difficulty with the leaf cut outs again, I should have learned my lesson the last time when I burned them, but this time I put them on the pie at the beginning of baking and they didn't brown up the way I wanted, either. But, recognizing some of the crust issues had to do with the moisture content, I made sure for the apple pie I added more water.

Last night after we got back from dinner I sliced the apples and assembled the pie. The apples were laid in the crust by hand, which meant they were all flat against each other and I think that makes for a prettier side view when the pie is sliced.

After playing around with the leaf cut outs again, here's the final product.
Now I'm working on getting the turkey in the oven and all the last minute details. More later!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Last week, the temperature was in the high 50's. Warm enough to rake some leaves, go for walks, and otherwise forget that winter was coming.

In the last few days, it snowed briefly and the temperature dropped to the 30's. Time to face reality!

First of all, I did manage to forage a few wintergreen berries last week, and I have another spot I'll get to soonish. Not a good year for these, either. I had a bunch in the freezer from before and yesterday I used them, plus some of my homemade wintergreen extract, to make wintergreen-chocolate-chip ice cream. It's been a while since I made ice cream and the elderchild always likes this flavor. Soon I shall have to make the flavor the youngerchild requested: Earl Grey with Vienna finger cookies. Me, I like them both....

Yesterday in the windy cold I got the hive insulated. This involves taking off the window panel and hardware and putting the foam lined panels all around. I did not make fondant for them this year. They seem to have enough honey in there, based upon what I found left over from last winter. We shall see if that was a good plan or not, in April, when I open it back up. I am hoping that then I can reorganize their combs and let them rebuild.

We still need to finish raking and mulch all the leaves in the backyard and get them out to the curb. The last leaf pickup will be December 1 so I need to get moving! The garden is otherwise in need of a little attention; we need to put tarps over the tables and chairs out there, and trim a few things.

As for canning, I have a bunch of projects building up in the freezer. Everything is on hold until after Thanksgiving, as I have a lot of prep for that this week. The squash and creamed broccoli are made, the pies will be started tomorrow, and I just have to make the stuffing ahead of time and the mashed potatoes on the day of our feast, which is Friday, as I am working on Thursday. What is waiting in the freezer is four pounds of bacon which I hope to make into bacon jam. I also have some pork scraps which I intend to turn into sausages, and a lot of chicken and duck bones for soups and stocks. I will have plenty to keep me busy this winter!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Problem Solving

Let's talk cookies for a minute.

I love to bake cookies. I used to always bake cookies for my friends. In college, as I had access to a kitchen, I had a deal: if you bought the chocolate chips and the sour cream, I would bake you a batch of cookies. I did this all through medical school as well. When things got hectic as I became a parent I ended up baking less and, when we moved to this house, I was never able to get the cookies right, so I gravitated away from baking those basic, lovely chocolate chip cookies everyone wanted.

Over the years since we've been here, I've chipped away at some of the problems that were making my cookies come out wrong. They were too flat, too crispy or too cakey. I was aiming for "just right," which seemed impossible. I changed the recipe from the one I liked with the sour cream to the traditional one on the packages of chocolate chips. I bought a thermometer for the oven so I could be sure the oven temperature was correct. I even learned more about baking and still, they weren't perfect.

Yesterday I was inspired to bake cookies again. I took a look at the recipe and, using my pastry school training, thought critically about the recipe. It calls for baking soda. Baking soda needs acid to work and there really isn't a lot of acid in the recipe. There was acid, certainly, in the recipe that calls for sour cream, but I wasn't using that one anymore, and I couldn't figure out where the acid was coming from. So I decided to add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder.

And that, my friends, is what finally made the difference.
Also yesterday I made a batch of the cheese bread I like so much, using Legion and this time getting the liquid content under control. I did the same thing, using 8 ounces of Legion and reducing the flour and milk accordingly. They were perfect! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Lately I've been switching up ingredients in my usual baking routine and I have been enjoying the results immensely.

First, I cooked all the sweet potatoes from my farm share, all six pounds, and puréed them in the food processor. With the first two cups I made a batch of pumpkin bread but with, of course, sweet potato. And it was really, really good. I froze the rest of the sweet potato purée: three cups for a pie and two more cups for another batch of bread.

Today I made bread, using Legion and my usual recipe but, on a whim, I'd bought Sprouted Wheat Flour. Sprouted grains are supposed to have improved bioavailability of nutrients. So instead of the whole wheat flour I usually use, this batch was bread flour and sprouted wheat flour. And all I can say is...Whoa.

The flavor and texture are so different! The bread is softer, and moister, and it smells really rich. I might have to do this all the time. Regardless of whether or not you believe there are nutritional advantages, the taste is certainly worth it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pickled Beets, Always More Work Than I Think

The last distribution of the farm share was yesterday and there were no more beets. That meant that I could get all the beets I'd been saving pickled, finally. I have a note next to my recipe to double the liquid, which I did. But, first, I had to make my own pickling spice as I seem to have run out. I couldn't find any in the cupboard.

Pickling spice: bay, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, cardamom, mustard seeds, dill seeds, whole allspice, cloves, ground ginger, crushed red pepper, and black peppercorns. Some people also add juniper berries which is one of the reasons I don't often buy it pre-made. No sense in making something to which I'm allergic!

So. Using the recipe for pickled beets in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, but doubling the liquid, I made enough pickled beets to fill three quart jars. The beets themselves took a long time to cook and slip the skins off. If I had to guess, I'd say that they longer they were in the fridge, the harder it was to remove the skins.

What do I have left? Six pounds of sweet potatoes. Two large bowls of squash: 3 butternut, 5 delicata, 2 acorn, 3 carnival. 3 cobs of popcorn. About 5 pounds of onions. 6 leeks and 2 bunches of scallions. Some escarole, lettuce, arugula, kale, chard, parsley, bok choy, and broccoli. 1 green pepper and about 6 red meat radishes. Nothing particularly cannable. Unless I want to cube up the squash and can that. Maybe...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Last Batch of the Season

Of caponata. Maybe?

I had three small eggplants, a green pepper, and five tomatoes from the farm which got converted into caponata today. These, plus onion, celery, capers, olives, vinegar, lemon juice and sugar made 8 cups. When I first got the recipe from Roxanne, the amount of vinegar was listed as 1/4 cup. In the book, it says one cup. That seemed like a lot, having subsequently tasted the end result. So today for one batch I only added 1/2 cup, and I tested the pH to make sure it was acidic enough to can. Which it was. I think these 8 jars will be part of my gift stash.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Catching Up

Two days ago I picked up the farm share. There are only two more weeks left after this one, and things are definitely winding down. There were very few tomatoes left, but lots of kale and escarole. This was also probably the last week for green beans. I came home with a few small eggplants, a few tomatoes, 1 quart cherry tomatoes, 2 quarts green beans, 5 tomatillos, 3 serrano peppers, 4 sweet peppers, 4 squashes, half a pint of raspberries, beets, escarole, kale, chard, lettuce, parsley, cilantro, dill, onions, garlic, leeks and scallions. I have some things set aside to make probably the last batch of caponata, and I'm slowly working through the rest.

Today after work I made another half-batch of salsa verde. The vegetables are first roasted for about 8 minutes under the broiler and then puréed with the vinegar, cilantro, lime juice, and cumin. As before, I got 2 half-pint jars and 1 half-cup jar out of that.

Other things that have gone on this week: I made lobster mac and cheese, which is terrific drizzled with white truffle oil. Along with that I tried macarons again, getting a little better this time. I used up the leftover honey lemon ganache I'd used on my coffee cake I'd made for the fair. When I ran out of ganache, I filled the macarons with strawberry jam.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Not What They Had in Mind

Today, well, starting yesterday, I made a pumpkin pie to enter in the fair's pumpkin pie cook-off. I made the eggnog from scratch yesterday and let it rest overnight. I made the pie crust with half butter and half leaf lard, and let that rest overnight as well. This morning I made the filling, using my favorite recipe with the eggnog and sweetened condensed milk. Then I suffered a series of technical difficulties.

First, I had intended that the recipe would make two pies, with one being a back up in case something happened on the drive up. It didn't. It made one very nice pie and there was only a little left over. Since I had the crusts prepared for two pies, I pulled out some pumpkin purée from the freezer, added the rest of the eggnog I'd made, some spices, and some cornstarch, and made a second pie. Which, since the recipe was all over the place, I didn't bring as a back up.

The next issue was that I made a lot of cute leaf and acorn cutouts to put around the pie. They took less time in the oven than anticipated and therefore most of them burned. Whoops. So I used what didn't burn and made a central design. Here's my pie.
The second pie got baked and the last of the filling and the dough got made into little tiny pumpkin tarts in ramekins. Very cute.

This afternoon the youngerchild had something to do so was dropped off two hours early, with homework. This enabled me to drive to Topsfield to get the pie in by 6 pm. My husband then made arrangements to get the youngerchild by 7 pm. The judging, which I'd hoped I could sit through, was closed to the public so I spent 3 hours wandering around the fair by myself. I watched the Mounties do their musical ride and teams of oxen pull progressively heavier weights - the last two teams were pulling 10,000 pounds. It's amazing. Then I went back for the pie announcement.

Sadly, I did not win anything. I did get some feedback. They said the crust was cooked nicely but didn't have enough flavor (which I read as, "needs more butter") and the filling was "too spicy." Everyone has an image in their mind of how something should be. Apparently my image for pumpkin pie isn't the same as the judges'. That's okay, I like my pie the way it is.

Saturday, October 1, 2016


It's rainy and cold today, which is just the day to go to the fair if you don't like the crowds. Which is exactly how we like it! We generally avoid the midway and the rides so the rain doesn't bother us.

Salsa Verde
Part of the collection of strawberry jams
Elderberry Jelly
Strawberry Jam
First off, the canning results: First place for salsa (salsa verde), sweet relish (zucchini relish), and "other" jelly (elderberry). Second place for the collection of 3 jams (variations on strawberry), apricot jam, and "other" pickled vegetables (carrots).  Third place for strawberry jam and raspberry jam. The dill pickles and the bread and butter pickles didn't place. The judges did something different this year. There were no Honorable Mentions, and if they didn't think a category didn't have a first place entrant they just didn't fill it. Some categories only had a third place awarded. Many categories had multiple winners in each place. It was unusual; I've not seen anything like it before.

Apricot Jam
Honey Lemon Almond Coffee Cake
Next, to the bee house for the baking with honey competition! I'm quite pleased to report that the Honey Lemon Almond cake won the coffee cake class and the Honey Whole Wheat Bread placed second in the whole grain yeast bread class. And I got some suggestions for a class to take this winter that isn't far from home and covers top bar hives.

Dilled Carrots
For the rest of the day we wandered around, ate fair food, watched emus race and female lumberjacks chop up logs. We fell in love with the rabbits, as always, and watched a chick hatch. And we rode an elephant. It was an odd collection of things.
Zucchini Relish
Raspberry Jam

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Baking with Honey

This morning I finished up the honey lemon almond cake and brought it and the bread up to the Topsfield Fairgrounds. The cake was made yesterday, and then I put it in the fridge until this morning when I could make the ganache and finish it up. Here's the final result:
For the ganache, I used honey instead of corn syrup as the invert sugar even though the rules exempt the frostings from the requirement that at least 1/4 of the sweetener be honey. I thought it would round out the flavor nicely. And the black walnuts are some of my foraged stash. They smell so lovely when they're chopped and I think the stronger flavor of the black walnuts stands out against this very dense cake.

Here's the bread from yesterday as well. I took the one that I salvaged mid-bake so it wouldn't have parchment stuck to it and entered it.
I will find out in two days how my canned goods and these baked goods did and will report back!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Now is the time to dig out the fridge. And it's a good day for it as there is a sidewalk repair going on across the street and it's hard to get in and out of the driveway. Because of the excavator.

With all the accumulated farm share veggies I made a triple batch of eggplant caponata (9 jars) and a full batch of hot pepper sauce (also 9 jars). I had to run to the store to get more jars.

Also today, I baked the bread and cake with honey that I plan to enter in the fair. I have to bring those up tomorrow to Topsfield. I was hoping to do that tonight but my husband and I are going to a lecture downtown and so I made time to drive up there tomorrow. The bread is the same whole wheat bread recipe I've been using with Legion and the cake is the honey lemon almond pound cake I came up with when I was in school. I'll top that with a lemon ganache and black walnuts. Tomorrow morning. Early. I don't think I'll have time to do that tonight. There was a bit of a crisis with the bread, though. The parchment paper I bought recently is *ahem* not of the best quality and STUCK to the bread. What a disaster! When I discovered the problem, the other loaf was in the oven so halfway through the baking process I had to get it off the bad parchment and onto another baking sheet lined with better parchment. This seems to have worked and I have one loaf without any stuck-on parchment to enter. I did go back to Amazon and write a truthful review of the parchment paper. I will never buy that again!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Nearing the End of the Season

The farm share was FULL of greens today. The rabbit should be happy! Lots of kale, arugula, escarole, lettuce, and braising greens. Although I think I might use the lettuce and the escarole and whatever I can of the arugula...

Anyway, I amassed enough tomatillos to make a quick half-batch of salsa verde again, so I popped everything under the broiler for about 8 minutes and then used the immersion blender to purée it all into a salsa. This made 3 cups of salsa.

The tomatoes are done for the season they say, so I got a quart of sungolds for nibbling and 3 large tomatoes which will go into my freezer stash for sauce. Also in the share: 2 delicata squashes, 1 watermelon, 2 leeks, a bunch of scallions, 3 eggplant, 4 sweet peppers, 8 onions, as many hot peppers as I wanted (I only took the 4 serranos I needed for the salsa), 1 cup of raspberries, a bunch of beets, and some things I didn't take (flowers, green beans, Shishito peppers, husk cherries, other herbs).

For dinner tonight I'll serve the potatoes from last week's share roasted with scallions and a salad as sides for our baked chicken dish. As always, I am thinking ahead to November when the farm shuts down for the winter and we will miss all these fresh vegetables.

Slightly Controlled Chaos

Last night was my canning class at the culinary school. As you can see from the title, there are things I could have done better! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

There were six students, my assistant and me. I had planned that each student would make a savory/vegetable thing, either a pickle or a chutney, and each would make a sweet thing. My assistant also made applesauce for us to can as a demo. However, it wasn't ready in time and one student's pickle was ready first so we sort of demo'd on that.

What we discovered was that while four canning pots was likely enough, there were not enough burners left for everyone to cook at a reasonable pace. The class ran way over time, by about an hour! One person had to leave early because her ride couldn't wait any longer. I felt bad, as she didn't even get to take home the jam she made. She did get a nice collection of other things to bring home. Certain recipes worked great in that time frame, like dilled carrots and dill pickles, but the bread and butter pickles took way too long. If I were to do this again, I'd get the cucumbers and onions set up ahead of time.

So, lessons for next time: cap the class at six students and do fewer recipes but spend more time talking about them. Also, demonstrating the food mill is unnecessary. If the school wants me to teach it again, I'd be more than happy to!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Autumnal Equinox

Here, on the first day of fall, I'm processing apples. I have another three quarts of applesauce in the canner. Also, I baked an apple cake. I still have at least a peck of apples left to work through and I haven't made a pie yet so that's probably next on the agenda.

Meanwhile, my canning class will be happening on Monday and I'm just working on the last minute details with the director. So far I have five students signed up, and there may be one or two more who enroll before the class begins. It's just a one-time class but if people like it I may do it again.

Also today: the bees got fed. They seem to be going through jars of syrup every four days. I think I'll get one more feeding in before I'm supposed to take out the feeder and stop for the season. The smoker is making this a much more reliably pleasant experience. While I loved going in and out of the hive last summer without my gear, I was definitely unrealistic about the potential for a bad experience. Now that I know more about beekeeping I am keeping the gear on.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Apple Picking

Whether or not we were going apple picking was undecided up until the time we actually showed up at the orchard and it had stopped raining long enough for people to pick. The weather was being rather unpredictable. Regardless, with a friend in addition to the family, we filled our bag with Honeycrisps, Galas, Fujis and Macs. And then filled our stomachs with cider donuts and cider slushies. Mmm.

After a lunch with my parents, we came home and I started cooking. First I used up all my eggplant and tomatoes by making a double batch of eggplant caponata and a single quart of whole tomatoes (26 small, maybe Jolly, tomatoes).  Then we ate dinner and it was time to make applesauce.

I probably cooked about a half-peck of apples, maybe a little more. It was all the Macintoshes and some of the Galas, I think. The Macintoshes cooked down so well and the Galas didn't that after I ran it all through the food mill, I cooked down the peels again to get the rest of the apple bits out. To the resulting applesauce, just over three quarts, I added about two cups of sugar. These were processed for 20 minutes and then rested for 5 before being removed. I'm sure I will be making more!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Salsa Verde Redux

Tonight, after watching our annual Town Day fireworks, I popped a quick batch of salsa verde in the canner. I'm finding that if I roast the vegetables under the broiler for about 8 minutes then it takes no time at all to make the salsa. I put the liquids and spices in the immersion blender's container and then add the roasted veggies and blend away. Tonight's batch started with six tomatillos, one onion, two cloves garlic, two serrano peppers and one jalapeño pepper. Now all the hot peppers I have left from the farm are the Hungarian Hot Wax peppers and I can make another batch of hot sauce with them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Midweek Update

There hasn't been a lot of canning going on, although I did get my entries up to the fairgrounds on Saturday. I had to do it in the middle of my workday because I couldn't swap shifts and my husband was out of town. Fortunately my current job is flexible so I started the day really early, left for 2 hours, and came back and stayed rather late. So. Ten entries into the fair for this year. Soon I'll be doing the baking for the other entries I've planned. The fair opens September 30 and I have set aside October 1 to get up there and see how I did!

Yesterday I fed the bees again. They seem to like their more concentrated syrup as the jar was empty. I'll have to go in a shorter time frame for the next one to see just how long it takes them to finish a quart. This interval was 5.5 days. The smoker is working nicely and the experiences have been pleasant and calm. Nice to have that back to normal.

This morning I made ratatouille with all the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers I've accumulated from the farm share. I pick up the next distribution tomorrow and I had to make room in the fridge! Now I'm down to lots of peppers, hot peppers, carrots, patty pan squashes, leeks, beets (I'm hoping for more and then I'll pickle them), and spaghetti squashes. Basically, I'm focusing my cooking on the things that don't last as long (peppers and summer squashes) and leaving the root vegetables for later. Maybe tomorrow I'll get more tomatillos again and can make a batch of salsa.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Something Different

At the farm yesterday we could take "as much as we wanted" of the regular or plum tomatoes on the vine. I decided to try my hand at making spaghetti sauce and so picked every ripe plum tomato (Roma) that I could find. I brought home 22. Sorry to those of you who were looking for some!

Tonight after dinner I peeled and seeded them, then made the Italian-Style Tomato Sauce recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (page 365). I made 1.5 times the recipe as I had more tomatoes than the recipe called for, but ended up only getting a little bit more than the expected yield from the original recipe. Currently they are in the canner for 35 minutes and then when that is done I will go to bed. While I don't think this is exactly what I planned when I wanted to make "spaghetti sauce," it'll do nicely as a base for a quick cacciatore or meat sauce.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


The farm share is full of hot peppers these days and I brought home another 20 peppers:  three cherry bombs and seventeen Hungarian hot wax peppers. These, plus seven or eight habaneros went into another batch of hot sauce. I can smell the heat from the peppers from the other side of the house. A little taste was more than enough!  It spattered on me and gave me a little burn, but I'm not sure if it's a thermal burn or from the capsaicin!

I also brought home a huge bowlful of plum tomatoes and will try to make spaghetti sauce sometime soon. I've not done that before and I think it might be fun. I probably won't get very much since I don't think I'm starting with 20 pounds of tomatoes, but I can at least make some. Whether or not I can it is a different story.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Elderberry Season

One of the few plants that did well this year were elderberries. In the spring the large puffy white flower heads were visible everywhere I looked. I tried to remember where I saw them so I could find the berries at this time of year. My usual spot didn't look so good today, perhaps due to having done so well last year, so I went to a different spot and got a good amount of berries.

The most tedious part of foraging has to be the cleaning and prepping of the food and elderberries are tops in tedium. It took me probably 90 minutes to get all the berries off the stems. After that, though, extracting the juice and making a batch of jelly took no time at all.

For today's jelly: 4 cups elderberry juice, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 5 1/2 cups sugar and one package of powdered pectin. This makes almost exactly 7 cups of jelly.

Now I have a dilemma: I have entered the "other jelly" class in the fair, and I have both elderberry and rose hip jellies. I think tonight there will be a taste test to determine which one I should enter (I can only enter once per class).

Sunshine on a Rainy Day

The tail end of Tropical Storm Hermine has finally arrived in our area and we are getting some much-needed rain. Indoors, I had the last four cups of rose hip juice waiting to be turned into jelly. First, though, I needed jars. Before that, I had to take the car into the shop for service. Having done all that and getting a rental for however long that takes, I got home and started working on the jelly.

Same recipe as before:  4 cups juice, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 5 cups sugar, 1 package powdered pectin. As this is being added to the gift stash, I am using 4-oz jars. The recipe made enough to fill 12 jars, one whole flat, plus a little extra for us.

This brings the gift stash up to 42 jars. That's excellent!

Now I have my eyes out for elderberries. I drove by the place I usually get them but they didn't seem as plentiful this year. I have a few other options I will check out in the next day or so.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Rose Hip Fruit Leather

After I extracted all the juice from the rose hips I ran them through the food mill and was left with a bright orange pulp. To this I added about two cups of sugar and then spread it out on saran-lined baking sheets. I don't have a dehydrator so I put them in the oven on warm overnight. The following morning, one of the two leathers was ready but the other one was too thick so took an extra day.

With each one, I cut the leather into eight equal pieces and left the saran on the one side. Then I could roll them up and put them in single serving bags and they wouldn't stick to themselves. We ate one and it was so tasty and the perfect texture.

Perhaps if I had a dehydrator it would be easier but I would rather just get a new oven with a dehydrator mode. For now, this works.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sunshine in a Jar

Every few years I get a chance to drive up to my (now former) boss's house and borrow his driveway. He lives near a beautiful beach just teeming with beach roses and this time of year the rose hips are ripe. A few days ago he sent me a photo so I could tell how they were doing and it was certainly time to get them if I had time to get over there. So my husband and I made a day of it with the 11-year-old. We drove up, walked along the beach, watched the sandpipers, skipped stones (well, tried to), and collected rose hips. After that we drove up to Woodman's of Essex and tried out their fried clams. They're very very good. I am going to have to go back up to the Clam Box so I can compare while these ones are still relatively forefront in my mind!

When we got home I washed and trimmed all those rose hips and simmered them. I turned off the stove and left them in the pot while we went to see a movie and when I got back I was able to quickly extract 4 cups of juice to make jelly:  4 cups rose hip juice, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 box of powdered pectin and 5 cups of sugar. Two of the jars are slated for the fair (making a total of 10 canning entries) and the rest will be for us and the gift stash.

As an aside, the movie we went to see was Kubo and the Two Strings. Truly the most stunning animation I've seen in a while and the story was beautifully told. I highly recommend it if you get the chance!

There is still another 4 cups of rose hip juice and a whole lot of pulp. I'm going to run the pulp through the food mill and see what I can do with it. I have read it makes a tasty fruit leather.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Or, in the case of the bees, their pheromone receptors...

My new smoker arrived in the mail yesterday and I needed to change the feeder. After checking in with our next door neighbor about when would be a good time (meaning, their kids were in for the night) I got the smoker, a jar of syrup, my new (not red) bee suit and all the rest of the necessary gear ready. I even got the mouse-guard figuring I should replace it while I have a chance.

What a pleasant and easy experience that was! Even when I dropped a screw for the mouse-guard and had to go back in the house for another. By the time I did that, I didn't have the gloves or veil on anymore but the bees were once again fine with me working around them without it.

The smoker burned through it's fuel very quickly and was cold by the time I was ready to go inside. How wonderful is that?

After this, the next jars of syrup will be 2:1 (2 pounds sugar to 1 pint water) and I'm to keep their food at that ratio until it's time to stop feeding them, in one month. Then I'll get their fondant boards ready for sealing up the hive in November. It's hard to think of cold weather right now but, for the first time in a while, the weather has been pleasant.

Sting count: 0
Total sting count: 30.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Another Use for the Caponata

Yesterday I made a batch of tomato salsa which yielded four pints. I'd hoped to make a batch of caponata yesterday as well but I was just too tired and ran out of time. So I made it this evening. However, not all of it was canned. As I was cooking chicken tortellini for dinner I thought that the caponata would make an excellent sauce. Turns out, I was right! However, as the youngerchild doesn't really like eggplant I also made a quick Alfredo sauce which worked well. What was left of the caponata was canned into two pint sized jars, one 12-oz jar and one 4-oz jar. My gift stash (all the 4-oz jars) is now up to 28 jars.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Getting Ready

The fair deadline is next week and I'm trying to see how many things I can enter this year. This morning I made another half-batch of salsa verde and will enter those two 8-ounce jars in the "Salsa" category. I think it fits better in that category rather than the "Fruit Salsa" class. Here's a full tally of the (so far) 9 classes I'm entering:

A-3: 3 different jams, 1 jar each - for this I'm doing 3 variations on strawberry jam: thyme, lavender, and margarita.
B-24: Salsa (salsa verde)
C-3: Dill Pickles
C-7: Bread and Butter Pickles
C-10: Other pickled vegetables (carrots)
D-1: Sweet relish (zucchini)
H-1: Strawberry Jam
H-2: Raspberry Jam
H-8: Other Jam (apricot)

If I can swing it I might get rose hips this weekend and make rose hip jelly; I'd enter that, too. Maximum number of classes a person can enter is 15, I don't think I'm going to get that many!

Meanwhile, I am inundated with tomatoes so have to get some onions, garlic, celery and olives and will make more salsa and caponata this evening.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spicy Things

In today's farm share we could get 20 hot peppers of any kind they had. I chose Hungarian Hot Wax peppers which are close enough to banana peppers to make that hot pepper sauce we like. From previous weeks' distributions I added a few cherry bombs and the rest of the stockpiled Hot Wax peppers. This made about nine cups of sauce, distributed in jars ranging from 4-oz to 12-oz.

We also got a quart of green beans and 1.5 pounds of carrots. Together, with some garlic scapes and dill heads, these made five pints of dilled beans and carrots. Two of the pints have chili peppers in them and the other three do not.

The share distribution included eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, Swiss chard, parsley, cilantro, cucumber, spaghetti squash, and tomatillos. I have enough tomatillos to make another batch of salsa verde and enough tomatoes to consider making more caponata and/or salsa. I just need to get more olives for the caponata.

Not What it Used to Be

Today I'd set aside the morning to pick raspberries with the youngerchild and make a batch of jam. I suspected the drought might have caused some problems with the raspberry farm, and it did, but they also have decreased the size of their raspberry patch this year. Instead, they have a wider variety of produce and a separate section for blueberries. Which is nice, but not what I wanted. Also, the experience wasn't as serene and zen as I'd hoped. That's OK, I have berries.

Sadly, the youngerchild is still too anti-insect to pick a whole lot of berries so I did most of the picking. It took a while but I got about 3.5 quarts of berries. Plus a goat milk yogurt drink, some fromage blanc,  and a couple of muffins. As soon as I got home I set to work making jam.

To keep the seed content to a minimum, I used 2 cups of crushed berries with seeds and 3 cups of puree without seeds. This made 9 cups of jam, two of which will be set aside for the fair. This year I can test out my theory about the presence of seeds in the jam. Provided it tastes reasonably raspberry enough, which is always iffy early on in the season and especially this year because of the drought.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Farewell, Queen Beeulah

This morning around 5 am that other beekeeper came to get the nuc colony. We were going to do this last night but it was still too warm so we both reasoned that it would be cooler and easier before the sun came up. I think that was definitely the case but the bees weren't as inactive as we'd hoped.

We went out with mesh, duct tape, a smoker and a lantern and gradually shooed the bees who had gathered at the entrance back into the nuc box. Then we quickly covered the opening with the mesh and taped it down. Some of the bees that got out were not very happy with us! We were well protected and they just made a lot of noise but didn't sting us.

Once we got the hive closed up he put it in the trunk of his car and drove them to his bee yard. He lives near a very large conservation area so hopefully the bees will be more than happy in their new home. Queen Beeulah and her family will have more space and, hopefully, more food!

Now I can focus on Queen Beatrix again and get that hive in as good shape as possible for the winter.

Sting count (today): 0
Total sting count: 30.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

At Least Something Grew This Year

We were walking on our street the other day and discovered that a neighbor had hops, in flower, growing in front of his house. That got me thinking about the hops on the bike path and so today I went down to take a look. Usually I miss the season by a week or two and the hops I find are wilted but not this time! They were perfectly ready. I picked a bagful and brought them home to oast. Which took about an hour at 275-300˚F. We have a beer kit we've been meaning to brew, an Irish red this time, so I can add these at the second rack. When we finally make the beer.

Also today I made three batches of chocolate zucchini bread - two batches to make four loaves of bread and one batch to make two round cakes (for these I left off the topping) and those cakes will be the basis for a birthday cake for Saturday. No reason it can't be remotely healthy, right?

The Saga of the Bees

When we got back from our trip and I inspected the hive, the bees were rather aggressive. This was unusual and worrisome. I reached out to the beekeeping community for help, got some advice, and tried to follow it. Then I made a mistake.

What happened was two weeks ago I went to change the feeder. In my horseback riding clothes. Apparently one should not smell like a large animal when visiting a beehive. Well, as soon as I opened the hive they went straight for me. I was wearing my gloves and veil but not the full suit and they stung me through my clothes. A lot. It was terrible. I managed to get the hive closed and run away. That night my husband asked me to get rid of the hive and I agreed. The next day I spoke with a professional beekeeper who suggested that it was likely that their aggression was due to several mistakes of mine that were compounding. She agreed to come to the house and inspect them with me and help me decide what to do with them. That was today. In the interim, she advised, stay away and let them cool down.

That was something I was more than willing to do. Being stung over twenty times is not something I was looking forward to repeating! In the interim, we decided that if they could be salvaged I would at least host them for a while longer until I decided whether I wanted to keep them long term.

This morning she came out and we were joined by another beekeeper who has a few empty top bar hives and was looking for more bees. He's been part of the conversation ever since I split the colony back in June. The three of us, using a smoker and taking our time, inspected both the hive and the nuc colony. And it was the most pleasant experience I've had with them, ever!

First of all, they both have queens. Who were super easy to spot. If you are an experienced professional, that is! So Beatrix and Beeulah are both alive. Secondly, the hive is badly cross-combed but it is too late in the season to fix that. It might be doable to fix them in the spring. Both colonies have some honey and both need to be fed. Those are the main issues. I'm to do exactly what I did last fall in order to overwinter them: feed a lot, make fondant boards, and hope for the best.

The other beekeeper will be back tomorrow evening and he will take the nuc colony to his yard. He will bring back the nuc box when he figures out how to transfer them to his hive.

Sting count (today): 0
Total sting count: 30.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kicked into Higher Gear

This week the farm was bountiful and I came back with more tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and hot peppers than previous weeks. In addition, there was even more zucchini! I have way, way too much zucchini. There will be chocolate zucchini bread again in our future. And maybe even a birthday cake made with the same recipe. But not today; today was for pickles, caponata and salsa!

First I made three 8-ounce jars of dill pickles - two of them are for the fair, with the cucumbers cut into spears. The other jar consisted of slices from the pieces that were cut off to make the spears fit in the jars. That one is for us! This batch used the same "Favorite Dill Pickles" recipe from the Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.

Next I made a double batch of eggplant caponata from Roxanne's recipe printed in Blue Ribbon Canning. (This is the book for which she and her sister and I contributed recipes and even have photos and bios of us.) This made a total of five and a half pints.

This evening I used up the rest of the tomatoes, three cippolini onions, two green peppers, and three jalapeños to make salsa. The vegetables were roasted first and then puréed with a immersion blender and mixed with vinegar, salt and sugar. This made exactly two pints.

Now I do have more room in the fridge. Except for the zucchini. They are still taking up a lot of space. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Revisiting a Recipe

When I first started culinary school we made lovely bread in class that had cheese baked inside it and also sprinkled on top. I tried making it at home and overproofed the rolls; they came out too big and the wrong texture. Since I got Legion, though, I've only been making the same basic bread recipe every week with just minor modifications. In an effort to experiment a little, I decided to try to make that cheese bread again, but using Legion instead of packaged yeast.

What I did was start with 8 ounces of starter and subtracted 4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of liquid from the recipe. This dough was very soft and sticky and so different from the bread I've been making. I've forgotten what it was like! I probably added a little too much liquid as I did add another ounce of milk while mixing. (Hey, note to self, don't do that!) Regardless, the dough fermented and proofed appropriately and the rolls came out really well. I think that was a reasonable approach to adjusting the formula and, for an experiment, I'm pleased with the results.

Also today I made a half batch of salsa verde. The link to the recipe doesn't work anymore so I had to find it again. Here's the new link. This made two cups of salsa. I'm hoping the farm share has more tomatoes and tomatillos so I can make more salsa in the next few weeks!

Last night for dinner I made up a recipe for ramen: for the broth I combined 1 pint each of duck and chicken stock, 1 pint water, 2 T. red miso paste, one egg, some ginger and garlic scapes, plus 1 T. sesame oil. Separately I cooked some Vietnamese noodles which were similar to ramen noodles (and all I had in the house). When the noodles were done they were served in a bowl with the broth and topped with a hard boiled egg, thinly sliced garlic scape (no scallions handy), blanched carrot slices and zucchini chunks. It was wonderful.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


This weekend has thus far been spent making the things we've run out of. Yesterday morning I made a batch of yogurt, half a gallon this time rather than a full gallon, and it was ready when I got home from work. Last night I started a batch of bread. This morning I proofed it and baked it. This afternoon I made eggplant caponata and canned it (three pints plus one 4-oz jar). Later today I'll make granola.

For the bread, I thought I'd try to make a Pullman type loaf using my regular loaf pans and a baking sheet to serve as a cover. They worked okay, but could have been proofed longer so they would have been more square. I think if I'm going to do this on a regular basis I would need a Pullman pan with a lid and use a less dense bread dough.

Also, two days ago the youngerchild and I made a batch of cookies. For the first half, it was just regular chocolate chip cookies with both milk and white chocolate chips. For the second half of the batch, the youngerchild requested to add mini-marshmallows. They don't exactly work as desired; the marshmallow melts and leaves holes in the cookies. I suspected that might happen which is why I didn't add them to the whole batch. I did, however, solve the too-flat problem; my oven hasn't been hot enough so they would spread too much and get very flat.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Weeds You Can Eat

The weather continues to be bad. There will be no peaches at the farm which usually has the best peaches around. Apparently they have no crop because the winter was so crazy and the buds froze. I will check the one other peach orchard I usually frequent but I don't have a lot of hope about that. There are no blackberries either.

What is doing well? The weeds. Purslane in particular is going crazy this year. I'd come across a recipe for pickled purslane a few years ago but this year I actually had enough purslane in my yard (topped off with a little from the farm where I get my share) to make this recipe for pickled purslane. It's a refrigerator pickle, so no processing. Just clean the purslane, boil the vinegar, water and spices, and combine in a one-quart wide mouth jar. Voilá.

On my agenda this weekend: bread, cheese bread, yogurt, granola, maybe some chocolate zucchini bread. Maybe more pickles. I have a lot of zucchini, cucumbers and carrots from the farm share. I might make a batch of eggplant caponata if I have time. The fridge is quite full!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Carrots and Cukes

Today's farm share pick up included 2 pounds of carrots and 2 pounds of cucumbers. The pickling cukes are basically gone but there were small regular cukes instead. I also got some cherry tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, onions, tomatillos, hot peppers, swiss chard, parsley, cilantro, and dill heads. The volume of the share is a whole lot less than previous years and the drought is surely to blame. By this time (halfway through the season) I usually would have at least two tote bags full but this week it was just one.

Anyway, I got home and made three pints of dilled carrots and 3 pints of Favorite Dill Pickles. For the carrots, I made one of the pints in two half-pint jars and have set them aside for the fair. The cucumbers were cut to the right length and then cut into spears. I will set aside the tomatillos and eggplant for when I have enough ingredients for salsa and caponata.

Bad News and Then More

So this drought is really making a mess of things around here. Yesterday we went to check on the blueberries at our usual spot. I'd wanted to go picking but we needed to check first to see if there were any to pick.

Nope. All the bushes and the berries we could see were shriveled and dead.  Maybe next year they'll come back. I had suspected this because we had such a good year last year, so we had gone picking twice and still have plenty of jam. I didn't count on the drought but overall, with everything doing so poorly this year anyway, it's not making too much of a difference. It might impact next year's crop so it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

However, the drought is affecting the food sources for the bees. In response to my queries with the beekeeping community it seems that my hive is more aggressive because of food pressure. The bees were also quite rude and bothered our neighbors on Friday and I'm hoping (as are they) that is a one-time thing. I am working on getting the hive stronger so I went to feed them yesterday. When I did that I noticed there were bees that looked very different getting into the hive. They were much larger and while they looked like honeybees they weren't part of the colony. The concerning part is that the hive wasn't being very good about fighting them off. So I narrowed the entrance.

Maybe some good news now: when I went today to see how they were, they were nicer (I didn't try to get in yet, that's for later today when I change the feeder. I think they finished a quart of syrup already) and I didn't see any of those larger bees.

The plan is to get some help and in a few weeks recombine the nuc colony and the hive. That will give me an opportunity to reorganize the main hive, clear out some of the abnormal combs, and hopefully strengthen the overall population.

Update: (5:15 pm) I went to go change the feeder and noted they only finished half of it, so I can give them another day. However, I saw those big bees again. I did see one get deflected by one of my bees. Progress?

Monday, August 8, 2016


Heh, heh. Last night we had friends over for dinner and I made creme brulée for dessert. Which gave me an opportunity to play with our new torch. It was awesome.

Given the size of the ramekins, I think I used too much sugar (1 T. sanding sugar for each). I also only have 4 ramekins and there were 6 servings so I used another little ceramic dish and a tiny individual bean pot. For the bean pot, it was so deep that the torch kept going out; my husband had to blow into it to provide enough oxygen for the torch to stay lit. He ate that one.

The recipe said to cook them for 20-25 minutes, I think I had to cook mine for almost 45 minutes and they still were a little too runny. I'll either have to cook them longer or make sure the water bath is hotter to begin with.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Still Aggressive

This afternoon I checked in the hives. And got more confused than before.

Clearly both of them have larvae, and workers, and it's been about three weeks since I checked last. So there are queens. Beatrix and Beeulah.

However, the nuc colony is organized and not very aggressive. The original hive has gotten very aggressive. It's harder and harder to get in there. And the cross combs made a mess. Also, the original hive doesn't look as robust. I don't see as many worker brood cells and, maybe that's not an issue given how hot it has been, but maybe I think I want to keep the nuc colony and not keep the original colony. Now I have to figure out how to to that, or to blend them back together somehow.  It'll be a lot of work, I think, to make this happen but it might be worth it. I have an email out to my beekeeper contact and might get on the forum again.

Sting count: 2
Total sting count: 6

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Chocolate + Zucchini

How could I ever NOT make this? It's so tasty, and it has zucchini in it. And the kids love it.

Today I took the larger of the two zucchinis from the farm share and made Chocolate Zucchini Bread, but I put it into muffin form instead of a loaf. The single batch recipe makes 24 muffins. I accidentally forgot to put the topping on before baking them, so pulled them out about halfway through, when I remembered, and sprinkled it on. Seemed to work okay. We had them as a side dish for dinner. They are, after all, a vegetable.

Note to self: 18 minutes at 350. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Root Veggies

There is a drought going on here in Massachusetts and it's affected the farm. They're actually doing fairly OK, due to a drip irrigation system, but the produce is not at its usual crazy level. Gone, entirely, are the greens (except herbs). In their place, root veggies have started to appear.

Apparently they've suffered an infestation of a potato beetle and so the potatoes are being dug up early and distributed. "Enjoy them while you can," is the general sentiment. Today's share included two pounds of tiny little potatoes. Also beets, carrots, and onions. Above ground, there were zucchini, fennel, cucumbers, and a few hot and sweet peppers. Tonight's dinner used up all of the potatoes and one of the onions.

I took all the carrots and made two pints of dilled carrots. It's unusual that I get carrots and dill heads in the same week so I took advantage of the situation and made the recipe correctly, for once! I also took the cucumbers, one of my two onions in the share, and two Hungarian Hot Wax peppers and made a spicy bread and butter pickle batch. Three pints.

Tomorrow evening, hopefully, I'll make chocolate zucchini bread.

Back Into the Usual Groove

While we were gone, I wondered how Legion was doing. I wasn't feeding it twice a week. What I did to try to keep it going was build up the volume gradually over time and then, just before we left, I fed it and put it straight into the fridge. I reasoned that the cold temperature would allow for slower growth. It seems to have worked. When I got home I poured out the excess liquid, scraped off the surface which seemed a little grey, and then fed it. It bubbled.

The next step was to make a batch of bread. I started it Sunday night and let it ferment overnight. I got up early on Monday morning with the intention to get it proofing but, in the interim, I'd gotten sign out for my patients and knew it was going to be a long day. Instead, I covered it and put it in the fridge, retarding the dough. Before I got home (and yes, it was a really long day, too long to have the bread proofing) I had one of the kids pull it out of the fridge and then I shaped and set the loaves to proof. Because the dough was now cold, proofing could take longer. This morning I got up around 5:30 and baked the bread.

They didn't have the oven spring they were supposed to have, but they did work, and the bread is delicious, as usual. We've already finished one of the loaves. Now that I can get back in my routine, I should be able to get the bread behaving itself with the next batch.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Culinary Review of Japan

We just returned from a trip to Japan. The land of beautiful food. Food that is as much for the sense of sight as it is for the senses of smell, taste and touch. (And sometimes hearing! Let's not forget that.) Done poorly, it's sensory overload. Done correctly, it's pure heaven.

Here are some of the best examples of food in the past few weeks:

Ramen. The broth is thick and filling and the noodles are chewy. The perfect way to deal with jet lag. Incredibly economical. The place at which we ate, Rokurinsha, located in the basement level of the Tokyo Train Station, had a line with a 45 minute wait and is considered one of the best in the area. You buy a ticket from the machine at the entrance for what you want and hand the ticket to the waitress when you sit down. The food comes within five minutes and as soon as you eat, you leave. Making room for the next people in line. The noodles were separate and dipped into the broth (a form of ramen called tsukumen). We had ramen a few other times but this was definitely the best.
Cute pies. We found a place in the Shibuya district of Tokyo called "Pie Face Happy Pie Home." The pies were sweet or savory and yes, every single one of them had a face stamped on the top. Except the apple pies, which had a lattice crust. They were delicious. Another night in Kyoto I found fish shaped pies stuffed with either sweet potato or red bean filling. Terrific.

Sweets of various kinds. Mochi, particularly with red bean filling, is a favorite in our house, but we also came across an incredible assortment of mochi-like things. This one is a Kyoto specialty: chestnut paste, surrounded by red bean paste, entirely encased in rice and then wrapped in a leaf. Also in Kyoto were little sugary sweets that tasted a lot like bubble gum but formed into swirls, spirals and fruit shapes. We discovered them while attending a tea ceremony and learning about matcha (green tea powder) and how to prepare it. It is traditional to serve a small sweet before the tea.
Not to mention, the sheer variety of KitKats is astounding. These are sake flavored, which were quite good. We also tried matcha, wasabi, strawberry, melon, and strawberry cheesecake KitKats. Plus grape and melon Pocky.
Sushi, of course. We went to the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo and waited in line for 3 hours to have breakfast at Sushi Dai. It was worth it. I have never had mackerel or sea urchin that didn't taste fishy before. The sushi chef never made us feel rushed even though we knew there were over 50 people waiting hours to get in to this little 14-seat stall at the market. He even got the 11-year-old to eat egg, the first time that's happened in 10 years. After this we generally stopped eating sushi because we were worried that it all would pale in comparison.
Fatty Tuna that melts in your mouth
Sea urchins

Sea urchin nigiri

Horse Mackerel
"Fast" food. It was easy to get food at the train stations and it tended to be reliably better than a lot of the on street restaurants. Particularly before a long train ride, it made sense to grab a bento box. This was the most beautiful one I had, on the way to Kyoto. Added kudos for the aloe and white grape juice drink.
Okonomiyaki. This is more from the Hiroshima/Osaka/Kyoto region of Japan. It's a crepe, and noodles, and meat, and an egg, and cabbage, and pretty much anything else you can think of thrown onto it. Oh, and sauce. Cooked on a flat grill. You leave it on the grill and cut off a bit at a time. We used a side plate, another customer was eating it straight off the grill.
Shabu-shabu. This was dinner on our last night. High grade beef brought to your table by waitresses in kimono with tea, rice, appetizers, and a plate of vegetables, glass noodles and tofu. You cook the meat, tofu, noodles and vegetables in a hot pot of broth. There were two sauces for dipping: ponzu and miso. The 11-year-old declared this the best meal of the trip. Despite the tofu.

Crazy themed places. Osaka and Tokyo apparently compete in this arena. In Osaka we found an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant. The staff all wore Alice dresses except the host was the Red Queen and there was a Mad Hatter somewhere. We wore bunny ears throughout dinner and everything had a face made out of food on it. Case in point, the Cheshire Cat pasta. It was probably the most entertaining of dinners.

Other categories: we also ate Yakitori one night. This tends to be bar food and, in Japan, one can still smoke in a bar. It's amazing how much we've gotten away from that and how much it affects the experience. The kids were rather unhappy with the smoke but loved the yakitori, including skewers of rice dumplings with various sauces. We did eat at a conveyor-belt sushi place (before Sushi Dai) which sent special orders to your table via a little Shinkansen (bullet train) on a track above the conveyor belt. It was pretty good for what it was.

Ice Cream. In crazy flavors. Matcha. Red bean. Chocolate-banana-charcoal. Black Sesame. Milk Salt. Grape. Peach. It was over 90 degrees and incredibly humid every day we were there so cold treats were most welcome. Shave ice was also abundant, sometimes just with flavored syrup and sometimes with actual fruit purée.

Finally, a word about drinks. Approximately every 30 feet there is a drink machine on a corner. Or in a temple. Or a parking lot. Or the train platforms. Everywhere, really. For about $1.25 you can get water, flavored water, energy drinks, juices, iced coffee. Almost every drink machine had a trash can next to it or built into it for recycling the bottle. People generally don't walk and eat or drink at the same time. They buy the drink, consume it, and ditch the bottle and then move on. Considering there were four of us, and we were constantly hot and thirsty, we were always buying drinks. The peach flavored water was the most popular in this family.

Now we're back, dealing with jet lag, and wishing we had some of that ramen.