Saturday, July 29, 2017

Continuing on the Peach Theme

Today's quick after-work project was peaches in syrup. I picked another 4 pounds off the tree (current tally: 15.5 pounds total) and peeled, pitted and sliced as many as were ripe enough. The peach slices sat in warm light syrup until I was done, and then I packed them into two quart jars and processed them. (25 minutes, rest for 5 minutes.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

This is Much Easier

When I buy peaches at the farm, I buy them by the half-bushel. And then I have about 24 hours to process them all before they go bad. It's stressful. With my tree, I'll probably end up with about the same amount of peaches but I am getting them a few at a time. This way, I can do a project each day and nothing is in danger of spoiling.

Today I pulled another 2.5 pounds off the tree, making a total of 11.5 pounds so far. And after some other yard work, I made another batch of peach jam, this time with crystallized ginger. So: 4 cups chopped peaches, 2 T. lemon juice, 1/4 cup crystallized ginger pieces, 1 box powdered pectin, and 5.5 cups sugar. You know, for the fair.

As I was chopping up the peaches I started thinking about peach ice cream. That might be my next project!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Another 5 Pounds

Today I pulled out a stepladder and picked another 5 pounds of peaches off the tree. Most are good sized peaches, some are quite small, and they all need a little time on the counter to ripen. Fortunately, I had some already ripening in the house, so those got put to use today to make a batch of jam.

Four cups of diced peaches, 5.5 cups sugar, 2 T. lemon juice and 1 package of powdered pectin. Since I didn't have a lot of half-pint jars, I filled 2 pint jars, 2 half-pint jars and one half-cup jar. Each jar got one or two maraschino cherries in it, depending upon the size of the jar. If I get enough for another batch (I should) I'll add some crystallized ginger. Once I get all the batches of jam done, I plan to start canning the peaches in syrup. One of these two batches will end up going to the fair, we'll just have to see which one is better.

The rest of the peaches that were reasonably ripe are going into a crisp for dessert tonight. Yum!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Peaches, From My Very Own Tree

This is my peach tree.
Yes, that's right. The thing hanging over the wall.
Astute observers will notice that it has a problem. It's growing horizontally instead of vertically. Clearly it doesn't have long for this world, but I'm hanging on to it to get my one and only peach harvest from it. I planted it 2 years ago. Last year there was a late frost that killed all the buds. This year it came back with a vengeance, so much so that the weight of the peaches pulled the tree over, breaking the root base and basically endangering passers-by. But there are peaches on it! About a half-bushel's worth and, today, I made my first batch of jam with them.

There is netting over the tree to keep out the birds, but it doesn't keep out the chipmunks, who eat half a peach and then run away. I pick what I can that are just starting to yield a bit to pressure and let them ripen in a bag on the counter. So far, I've gotten about 4 pounds.

Today's jam was inspired by the beautiful blackberries in yesterday's farm share. I decided to make a Blackberry Peach Jam:  1 pint of blackberries, 3 cups chopped peaches, 2 T. lemon juice, 1 box powdered pectin, and 6.5 cups of sugar. The blackberries were crushed as they cooked a bit. This made 8.5 pints of jam. I might enter some in the fair. Or not. One pint will go to my friend with whom I'm splitting the share, since she didn't get any blackberries this week because she was out of town.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Starting to Pick Up

Obviously, since we were away last week, we missed the farm share. This week, there were more squashes and carrots and fewer greens. And the volume increased dramatically. Here's what I'm keeping as my half:

1 pound cucumbers, already fermenting into half-sours
1 head of lettuce
1 head of green cabbage
1 qt. blackberries (half for eating, half for making peach-blackberry jam, using the peaches from my tree which are just starting to get ripe)
.75 lbs carrots
1 eggplant
2 pounds beets, which I will pickle and give some to my friend
1 bunch parsley

The cucumbers were washed, shoved in a jar with crushed coriander seeds, crushed mixed peppercorns, garlic, bay, and dill seeds and then a brine (1/2 T. Kosher salt per cup of water) poured over top. They're now sitting with a bag of brine on top, and will take about a week to ferment. 

Back From Vacation

Last week, we went canoeing in the wilds of Maine. It was not as remote as some trips, but it was remote enough for us, I think! Four days without cell phone coverage, and our only connection to the world was one-way - we carried a Spot GPS device and had it programmed to send a "We're OK" email at the push of a button. So every day went sent out a ping to our families and enjoyed unplugging for a while.

From a food perspective, because we were in canoes, we brought a Coleman grill and actual meat products in addition to dehydrated meals. We ended up eating the dehydrated meals as side dishes although there were a few desserts and breakfast items as well which we saved for when our cooler was no longer cool and we'd used up all our eggs and things. Before we left, I baked 3 loaves of bread. One got eaten while it was still warm and the other two I sliced and brought with us, so we could have sandwiches every day. The first day we pulled to the side of the river and made sandwiches on our laps, and the current gradually floated us to the other side of the river while we ate. It was pretty fun. For the other days, I made the sandwiches ahead of time and had them in the cooler for when it was time to eat.

The wildlife we saw was amazing! We came across a family of moose, several deer, and some of us saw a moose swimming across the river early in the morning. We also saw a mother otter with two babies, many loons, a few bald eagles and a golden eagle, and lots of kingfishers. Also ducks and common mergansers. One night I woke up to a moose splashing around in the river, when I tried to see it and wake up the rest of the family it heard me and bugled a few times and took off. There were moose prints at one of our campsites. We even saw a shrew or star nosed mole swimming across one of the streams we paddled.

When I got back, the first thing I needed to do was bake more bread. Since I didn't have any eggs in the house, I used cream for the wash on top before baking. It's fine, but egg is better! Here is some of the bread, with my new oven mitt:

Oh, and the stars were just gorgeous.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fish Week

While the youngerchild, who despises fish, is away at camp, the rest of us are having a fish-only week.

Sunday we were in Rhode Island and had clam cakes while enjoying the Crescent Park Carousel. I grew up about 3 miles away from there and used to ride that carousel with my friends all the time. We got skilled enough to catch 4 rings with each pass, by leaning really far out and catching one ring with each finger. As you might imagine, that increased our odds of catching the brass ring. But enough reminiscing! Rhode Island clam cakes are a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. I love 'em. One summer as teenagers, empowered with cars, my friends and I hit every little dinky clam shack on the East Bay side of the state, looking for the best ones. There was a tiny little broken down looking place on Route 6 near a tidal stream, in my opinion those were the best. I don't even remember if the place had a name. Anyhow. Sunday. Clam cakes.

Monday was some of the walleye we'd caught and frozen. I had two bags left, with three filets each. Now we're down to one. Baked with some butter and Ritz cracker crumbs and some herbs. Topped with a shallot cream sauce and served with roasted garlic scapes and a salad with just lettuce, Hakurei turnips, and pickled fiddleheads.

Last night, after I worked for 14 hours, we had sushi from our favorite Japanese restaurant in town. Too tired to cook.

Tonight, I just steamed 3 pounds of mussels and they were amazing!  Briefly: dice and sauté one shallot and one clove of garlic. Add and sauté one link of chorizo, sliced. Add 1 pint Persian spiced tomato sauce (coriander, cumin and lime) and about a cup of water and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and steam for 5 minutes. Voilá. Served with french bread to soak up the liquid. And a nice white wine.

Tomorrow night we will grill some salmon which is currently marinating. Then the youngerchild comes back and there will be, sadly, less fish on the menu.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Chocolatey Treats

We had a BBQ today, with many tasty foods, including lots of my canned goods. Oh, and this:

Chocolate covered brownie bites. Need I say more?

Cherries On Sale

Anytime I see cherries on sale, I think about making maraschino cherries. I was down to two jars and since they are only ever that plentiful this time of year, it was my only opportunity to make a batch. Over the past few days, about 5 pounds of cherries have been pitted, brined, and soaked in syrup. This morning, a day later than I should have done this, I drained them and reboiled the syrup, adding the almond extract as the last step. Out of this I got 5 pints of maraschino cherries which are currently in the canner.

The main reason I delayed a day in getting these processed completely was that I was working this past weekend and it was so amazingly busy. I spent almost 12 hours at work on Saturday and about 11 on Sunday. Usually, with this job, my weekend shifts can be completed in 8-9 hours, so this was very atypical! Anyway, I was just so tired I couldn't bring myself to get up 90 minutes earlier to get these done yesterday morning. And yesterday evening was spent working in the yard while it was a little cooler and before it got dark. It's starting to look like a yard again!