Sunday, June 24, 2018


Each of my children did really well on their report cards this year (straight A's!) so each got to pick how they wanted to celebrate. The elderchild chose ice cream so we had an outing to the local ice cream parlor. The youngerchild wanted, you guessed it, cheesecake.

I was worried I was running out of graham cracker crumbs so when my husband went to the store I asked for some kind of cookie I could use instead, in case I ran out. He came back with ladyfingers, the dry and crunchy kind. I wasn't sure that would work for crumbs. As it turned out I had enough crumbs, but I decided I could still use the ladyfingers:

Then, once the cheesecake was baked, I had this:

Finally, I made chocolate sauce and poured it over the top. After letting it run through the gaps between the ladyfingers, I chilled it for a few minutes to let it set before I put cut strawberries on top. (The last of this week's strawberries from the farm share.)

Congratulations to both of you for a great school year!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Strawberries and Saffron

This is a belated post, but when the elderchild and I made a strawberry rhubarb pie the other day there was a lot of pie crust left over. To give the elderchild more practice with rolling out crust, we collaborated on a rustic strawberry tart.

The filling was a little bit of strawberry jam topped with sliced fresh strawberries. When it came out of the oven, I immediately brushed it with the saffron simple syrup I'd saved from the youngerchild's baklava and zoolbia adventure. The liquid evaporates off and leaves a glaze which had a nice hint of saffron that went beautifully with the berries. Yum!

Flowers and Berries

This year the mulberry tree in our yard has been fairly prolific. In three picking sessions I got enough juice to make a batch of mulberry jelly. Since I didn't see the lime juice in the fridge right away, I grabbed the key lime juice instead. I think it makes it even better:

4 cups mulberry juice
3 T. key lime juice
5 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin

Makes 7 cups plus a little more.

The other thing I'd been toying with was the idea of a rose jelly. Not rose hips, just an extraction from the petals. I have scarlet creeper roses in my yard and picked enough to make 2 cups of infusion. Now, the issue here was that I didn't want to add lemon juice because the rose flavor is pretty subtle and easily overpowered. Cooking also causes the rose essence to evaporate or something. So I added some tartaric acid for the acidity without changing the flavor. Why tartaric? I didn't have citric acid but I did have tartaric acid for cheese making.

2 cups rose petal infusion
1 tsp. tartaric acid
4 cups sugar
1 package liquid pectin
1 T. rosewater

I tossed the rosewater in after the jelly had its one minute hard boil so there would be that rose scent and flavor preserved. Into each jar, I added 2 fresh rose petals. This made 4 cups of jelly.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Where is Beeyonce?

That seems to be the big question. I can't find her. She's painted with a red dot, I ought to be able to.

Today I inspected both the nuc colony and the main hive. The nuc colony consisted of the 4 combs I found with swarm cells and one honeycomb. Today I see evidence of an active queen - eggs in the cells, hatched swarm cells, and bees fanning (which indicate to the other bees that the queen is *right here!*). But I did not see a queen.

In the main hive, I did not see Beeyonce either. I did find an UNmarked queen. A new queen? Beeyonce without the paint? Not sure. The main hive is also thriving and more docile than the nuc colony.

I will have to plan on feeding both colonies in the latter part of the summer if I want them to survive. If my queens are both new then they need new names. Phoebee for the main hive and Hebee for the nuc. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ran Out, Improvised

One of the jams I've wanted to try was a strawberry-balsamic jam. I found a recipe online which used 4 cups of strawberries and 2 T. of balsamic vinegar. I thought I had enough balsamic but the bottle tricked me, the punt was bigger than I thought so I only had about 1 T.

Also, I wanted to use pectin, so I used the regular recipe; when I tasted it I felt the jam needed more...oomph, I guess. Since I didn't have any other bottles of balsamic vinegar around, I added a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce. I think that did the trick! I'm hoping to enter this one in the fair so here's the recipe:

Strawberry-Balsamic-Plus Jam

5 cups strawberry purée
7 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin
1-2 T. Balsamic vinegar
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
12 turns from the pepper mill

This made the usual 8 cups plus a little bit. The pepper is a nice touch. 

There is more to do to finish up the strawberries but I probably only have 2 quarts left. Later today I'm teaching the elderchild to make a pie. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Back in the Saddle

Metaphorically speaking, although I am going riding tomorrow...

It's been a long and busy springtime and I have been putting off various cooking and canning projects. But strawberries don't wait and today was a perfect day to go picking. The elderchild and I got up early and arrived just when the farm opened; in half an hour we picked almost 18 pounds of berries. After stuffing our faces with warm strawberry doughnuts and visiting the baby goats, lambs, and all the bunnies (we caught a glimpse of a baby bunny but it didn't want to come outside) we rushed home.

[Actually, we rushed home because I had an opportunity to buy tickets for Hamilton when it comes to Boston. My purchase window opened at 10 am, we got home at 9:46 am. I am psyched to say that we have tickets for October!!!]

First I made one batch of strawberry jam. I have SO MUCH jam leftover from last year if you roll all the flavors together that I won't make a whole lot this year. One batch to start, anyway. We'll see how much I have left. Then I set aside some berries for eating and enough berries in sugar for shortcake. The shortcake is currently in the oven.

Next up, pie filling. Since the youngerchild loves cheesecake, particularly strawberry cheesecake, what better than to make my own pie filling? Using this recipe, I made 6 pints of pie filling. And it's glorious (we licked the pot).

After a few errands and the like, I stopped at the store and bought some rhubarb since I don't seem to have any. I bought almost 4 pounds so I chopped 12 ounces and mixed that with a quart of berries, 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of cornstarch. This will become a pie tomorrow. The elderchild has wanted to learn how to make a pie so this is a perfect way to start. The rest of the rhubarb was chopped and is now frozen in 1-pound bags.

That has used up about half the berries. I have to think about what to do next!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Unexpected Split

Two weeks ago, when I checked on Beeyonce and her entourage, all appeared well. I didn't even check every bar because they were getting a little loud which suggested they weren't pleased. But I had been surprised by how many combs had been built compared to my last colony. I suppose I shouldn't have been, they started almost two months earlier in the season and it'd been a mild one with lots of flowers. So I guess it should have also not been a surprise that they would do the other things a vital and prolific colony would do...

Today I had a little more time than expected so I decided to check out the hive. It's a very good thing I did. I managed to get to every bar and I found queen (swarm) cells on bars 3, 5, 6, and 11. There were so many capped brood cells that it's clear Beeyonce is there somewhere and doing well, even though I didn't see her today. After pondering for a few minutes whether I should just let them swarm (and basically be a bad neighbor) I closed up the hive, pulled out my nuc box from the garage, and set it up next to the main hive. I then reopened the hive and pulled out those 4 bars, along with another bar full of what looks to be mostly honeycomb. These are now set up in the nuc colony, with the entrance facing the opposite direction and I'll let the bees sort themselves out. In a few weeks I'll inspect again and see if there is a queen in each box.

After that, I'm not so sure. If Beeyonce isn't around and there's no evidence of a laying queen, I'll recombine them. If there are two healthy colonies, then I have to decide if I want to manage a second hive. All the beekeepers I know think I should have two. Or more. I'm not sure how all my new neighbors (three of the four houses around me are in the process of getting new owners) would feel about more than two hives!