Thursday, August 31, 2017

Spicy Salsa!

When I made the salsa to enter in the fair, I felt it was missing something. Pizazz, maybe. Certainly cilantro. Today I made another batch in which I used five jalapeños instead of three, and added 2T of cilantro. This made five cups of salsa and I gave one pint to my friend with whom I split the share. It has a nice kick this time. This will be the batch that goes to the fair.

Next I made salsa verde, using all the accumulated tomatillos and five serrano peppers. Also with a very nice kick! My friend got a 12-oz jar and I got the 8-oz jar.

Tomorrow I plan to make grape jelly. I have one other thing I want to make for the fair, a variation of toorshi, but to do that I have to get some other vegetables first. And I have to have time. That always helps...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wee Little Beasties

It has been a very long day (note the time of this's currently 1:00 am on Wednesday). My day technically started on Monday, when I worked an overnight shift. I did sleep a little, in between pages, and yesterday a little after 7:00 am I headed home. After I had some coffee I started a batch of bread dough using Legion (beastie #1: saccharomyces cerevesiae, aka yeast) and took another short nap. I got up to go riding but my lesson was canceled so instead I took the youngerchild to lunch. While we were out I got a text from a friend saying he had Concord grapes to share. When I got back, after a while I was able to muster up enough energy to make a batch of yogurt (beastie #2: lactobacillus) and a batch of granola while I waited for the grapes.

After dinner, my friend arrived with a half-bushel of grapes (plus beastie #3: drosophila, aka fruit flies). Apparently they are from his mother's backyard and she gave him about three times as much so he was sharing. As they had been picked a few days ago I needed to get them juiced right away But I didn't get started on washing until after 10:00 pm. I've just finished sorting through them, extracting over a gallon of juice from most of them (I still have another small pot full to make into juice tomorrow).

As soon as I got the grapes on the stove I punched down my bread dough and shaped the loaves. It's cooler this week so the bread took longer to ferment. I'm wondering if it'll be proofed by the time I get up tomorrow.

The yogurt is still hanging out on the heating pad. I thought about dealing with it now, but I'm just too tired and I don't think a few more hours of incubating will hurt it. At least, I hope not!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Project Completion

Today I finished a batch of sweet relish I started yesterday. First you have to salt the vegetables and let them sit overnight or, in this case, about a full day before you rinse them and boil them with the syrup. This is a variation of "Grandma's Golden Relish" from The Ball Complete Book of Canning. The changes were that I used half cucumbers (3 cups) and half zucchini (3 cups) and that all the peppers were green. This made 7.5 cups of relish.

I added the white wine to the sauerkraut and also added a little brine since there wasn't enough liquid to cover the cabbage. Now it can ferment for a few weeks in its crock and I shouldn't have to worry about it.

Lastly, I used up three eggplants making "Pickled Eggplant with Mint" from Preserving by the Pint. I didn't have red wine vinegar so I used up my tarragon and champagne vinegars and then made up the difference with cider vinegar. I hope that works - it might be a little harsh. For the mint, I harvested a bunch of stems from my pot of mint in the backyard. Supposedly this is good with some feta cheese and olive oil so I'll have to try that this winter.

After all this work, I can now see the back of the fridge again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Another Big Day

Yesterday I picked up the farm share and I didn't have a lot of time to do anything with it. However, I have this entire afternoon to work through a few projects. I have one problem, though. Our computer died after a power failure (probably a power surge fried it) and I'm not sure how I'm going to print labels. So this quick post is just about the salsa that I made (4 cups, or half a recipe) and the canned beets I'm in the process of making (likely 3 quarts, but maybe 4, depending on how many beets fit in each jar). Then I'm going to test out the printer. For the record, this salsa is going to the fair, so here's the recipe:

1 quart tomatoes, cored and seeded
1 bell pepper
1 medium onion
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded
1 T. Kosher salt
2 t. sugar
2 T. vinegar

Broil the vegetables for about 10 minutes, turning once during the cooking time. When soft, add the salt, sugar and vinegar and process with an immersion blender to desired texture. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

The other thing I did this morning was start up a batch of sauerkraut using three heads of cabbage I have accumulated from the farm. I am considering entering sauerkraut in the fair, too, if it finishes its fermentation in time.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

More Gifts

This afternoon I stopped by a friend's house as she had offered me some pears from her tree. Like everything else around here, the fruit has been prolific. I brought her a jar of peach jam and took home a bagful of pears which I promptly turned into five quarts of pears in light syrup. This time I left the pears in halves so they took up more space. That being said, I could have had maybe two more pears total, a couple of the quarts have fewer pears than the others.

The other thing I did today was pressure can tomatoes and celery which my mason had dropped by. This was pretty simple - peel, core and chop the tomatoes and cook them down with sliced celery, then put them in quart jars with a little salt and pressure can them. That gave me two quarts to be used for cooking at some point.

Nothing Wasted

This morning I got up and made apple jelly with the juice I extracted yesterday. Seven cups of juice plus nine cups of sugar and a box of powdered pectin made eleven jars of clear, pink apple jelly. I'm pleased with the color; when I entered this in the fair two years ago the judges specifically mentioned they liked that it was pink. I have managed to get a similar color this year.

Since there were two cups of juice left, I diluted that with some water and added a half a cup of sugar and the next thing into the canner will be two pints of apple juice.

All that was left of that huge pile of apples was about a pint of skins, seeds, and pulp. That's pretty efficient.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Being Neighborly

Two of my neighbors have apple trees and they both have given me apples in past years. This year, one of them got a bag full of peaches and they plan to give me some of their apples in return; theirs are like Granny Smith apples and they're great for cooking. My other neighbor contacted me last week and suggested I come and pick some of their apples, which are more like Macintoshes. Two years ago my apple jelly made from their tree's fruit won first place in its class at the Fair. I'm hoping that works in my favor again this year!

In return for a large amount of apples (I should have weighed them out of curiosity, but I didn't) I brought them a pint jar of peach jam. They were pleased. So was I, except for standing on a shaky stepladder on a slanted driveway to pick apples. But we managed! Here are all the apples:
I quartered them all and cooked them with some water in two large pots and then let them drain over cheesecloth to get the juice. I ended up with a little more than two quarts of juice. The solids were then passed through the food mill to make applesauce. For three quarts of applesauce I used 1.5 cups of sugar. I did contemplate adding my honey instead, to make this super-uber-local applesauce, but I couldn't bear to part with what little honey I have for something that would mask the taste.

Tomorrow I will take the juice and make jelly. I need 7 cups, and I have about 9 cups. Not sure what to do with the rest, except maybe add some sugar and can it just as juice. We'll see.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dill Pickles of Various Kinds

This afternoon I picked up the farm share and, as my friend with whom I split it is away for a few days, I needed to deal with a larger portion of it. I also received some tomatoes, eggplant and celery from my mason. I do have a plan to can the tomatoes and celery and in the pressure canner but I didn't have enough time today. Instead, I made dilled carrots and beans and, when I ran out of those, one pint of dill cucumber pickles. All the vegetables were from today's share.

Since I made two jars of the carrots and beans very pretty, I will enter them in the fair. For later: 3 cups white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup kosher salt. Each pint jar had one head of dill, one dried chili pepper, and 1/2 of a clove of garlic. The carrots and beans were packed in so they alternated along the outside, like so:
These, plus the cucumbers, were processed for 10 minutes and then they rested for 5 before I took them out of the canner.

Also in the share: peppers, zucchini, eggplant, lettuce, beets, broccoli rabe, tomatillos, hot peppers, parsley, cilantro, dill, blackberries, cantaloupe, and tomatoes. I'm going to have to eat all the fruit before she comes back, but there is a lot for her to enjoy.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Elderberry Jelly

A month or so ago, I noticed a lot of elderberry flowers on a road nearby. They were on the edge of a marsh, a perfect place for elderberries to grow and grow well. I made a mental note to check them again toward the end of the summer. Usually around here they ripen in late August or early September. Not this year! I happened to be driving by yesterday morning after taking the youngerchild to camp and noticed lots of dark purple berries. Yesterday afternoon I went back and picked a whole bunch.

After I got home, I washed them, got them off the stems, and juiced them. I got a little over 5 cups of juice so I let that sit in the fridge overnight for the solids to settle. This morning, after a run to the hardware store for more jars, I made a batch of jelly. I used all the juice I had and, since it was more than the standard recipe (4 cups) I tweaked:

5+ cups elderberry juice
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
6 1/2 cups sugar

The yield here is 9 cups plus a little bit. As soon as they come out of the canner, I'm going to pick some more peaches.

And, since this jelly won in it's class last year in the fair, I think I won't enter it this year.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Today I had to make another quart of peaches in syrup because the elderchild opened up one of the jars for a friend who then didn't even eat them!


Also, I picked another 2.5 pounds off the tree making the running tally just about 41 pounds. There are still a few more out there.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Another Post About Peaches

Last night was my first overnight shift in over two years and, thankfully, it went well enough that I had energy this morning to do things. Like go to my riding lesson. And pick peaches. I pulled another 4 pounds off the tree (up to 38.3 pounds and there are probably another 6 or more pounds on the tree, at least that I can see) and brought a few to my riding instructor. The rest went into a peach-wild blueberry cobbler which we just had for dessert with peach ice cream.  I used the last cup of wild blueberries that we picked on Saturday.

I did spend a few minutes after my riding lesson to go hiking up the hill behind the stables for berries. Last year I started a long term project of foraging whatever berries grew at the stables and, when I get enough, I plan to make some sort of jam or jelly with them. Last year I filled a quart sized ziploc with blackberries, black raspberries, wild blueberries, and grapes. Mostly grapes. They're in the freezer. This year so far I've found both red and black raspberries, wild blueberries, and some blackberries which are just getting started. Most likely the bulk of the project will be grape based, but there will at least be a variety of berries in there to add some interesting flavor. Generally each week I get about 1/4 cup of berries. (This project is neither quick nor easy. Yes. I am patient.)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Winding Down a Little

Today we trimmed back the top branches of the peach tree, the ones that were hanging over the sidewalk because the tree is, well, horizontal. I've harvested all the peaches from those upper branches and now it's time to allow the sun to ripen the peaches closer to the trunk and the lower part of the tree in general.

Funny story, this morning the elderchild went out for a run and saw a squirrel, with a whole peach in its mouth, try to climb a telephone pole. Somehow it made it, periodically adjusting the peach. When it got to the wires at the top it tried but couldn't go on, clearly unbalanced. Instead, it made an incredible leap onto a nearby tree and made it. Still with the peach.

Actually, I'm somewhat surprised it took it away with it. Most often I find them gnawed upon and still attached to the tree, or half eaten on my front steps. Cheeky little monsters.

The harvest for today was 3.3 pounds (tally now up to 34.3 pounds) and I made another 6 cups of peach jam. I should not be running out of peach jam anytime soon!

Farmed, Foraged, Homegrown and Homemade (Redux)

This morning I got up early to make scones. The elderchild wanted something to take on an outing with friends and I wanted to do something with the last cup or so of wild blueberries. So I made peach-blueberry scones.

Farmed: nothing really, unless you count the peaches, which were also Homegrown.
Foraged: the blueberries
Homegrown: the peaches
Homemade: the yogurt in the batter, and the scones themselves.

I used a standard scone recipe that used buttermilk or yogurt and was lighter than some other recipes I've tried. For the fruit, I chopped up one small peach and then added about half a cup of blueberries. Instead of nutmeg in the batter I used ginger. I could have used crystallized ginger instead, then you might have actually tasted the ginger. Regardless, because this was a lighter batter, after turning it out on the countertop for a quick knead, I ended up using a scoop to make the scones rather than patting it all into a disk and then slicing. They baked for 15 minutes at 400˚F and smelled heavenly!

Now I've just finished up setting a batch of bread to proof. I'm going to try to pour a little melted butter into the loaves after I score them, just like those old commercials. It'll be interesting to see how that changes the bread.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Switching Gears

Today's blog post is not about peaches.

It's blueberry season, and this is the first weekend day we've had to go pick them in a while. So I dragged the family out of bed with the promise of muffins and we went to "our spot." Sometimes when we are there we see an older Ukrainian gentleman who is picking as well but we didn't see him today. We did see lots of people walking through there, more than previous years. They knew exactly what we were doing but no one seemed to care. In a little over 2 hours many busy hands gathered 20 cups of wild berries and got out of there before the rain came.

At home, I sorted and washed the berries and pulled off all the little stems that stayed behind. Then I made two batches of blueberry jam back to back so for the purposes of making labels I'm lumping them all together. Twelve jars in total, each batch was six cups of berries, four cups of sugar and a package of powdered pectin.

Six more cups of berries were set aside in the freezer for pancakes or other baking projects. The rest are being saved for tomorrow when I can make blueberry scones.

Maybe I'll toss a peach in them for good measure. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Still Going Strong

Yesterday I picked another 6 pounds of peaches off the tree (running tally now at 31 pounds!) and set them in a bag to ripen. I also started up a batch of peach ice cream by making a creme anglaise base but instead of 16 oz milk I used about 8-9 ounces of puréed peaches and then the rest was milk. This cured overnight to develop the flavor and then today when I got home I ran it through the ice cream maker. I added about 1 cup of chopped peaches at the end and it's now freezing solid so it'll be ready for dessert tonight.

Also this afternoon, I put up another 2 quarts of peaches in syrup. That makes 6 quarts, which is about what I wanted, so the next project might be another batch of jam or another crisp. Or maybe a pie. There are still so many more on the tree! I've even started giving some to the neighbors.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Today I was working at another nearby hospital, about 12 or so miles from my house. While I was at work the craziest thunderstorm occurred, with blinding rain, probably hail in some places, strong winds, and flash flooding. I was really worried it would destroy the rest of the peaches on the tree but here's the weird part - it missed our house entirely!

I didn't get home in time to pick more peaches today but yesterday I picked 7.5 pounds and, the day before, just about 2. That brings the tally to 25 pounds of peaches so far! This evening after dinner and a movie I processed another 2 quarts of peaches in syrup. I suspect I get more peaches per jar because they're smaller and they pack tighter. But I still would like to get at least another 2 quarts canned before they're all gone. There's been a request for another crisp and I plan to try to make peach ice cream tomorrow as well.