Friday, December 27, 2019

Even More Christmas

Last night a larger subset of our family got together for gift giving and dinner. There were 10 of us in total, and we had a lovely afternoon of appetizers and presents. Then for dinner I roasted a beef tenderloin, Mom made baked stuffed shrimp which we baked after the tenderloin came out of the oven, and I made Persian rice. Apparently, I had not yet made Persian rice after I got my new pots, which are thicker, so my usual timing to make tadiq didn't work out, and the tadiq did not form properly. At least the rice tasted good! I guess I'm going to have to practice.

For dessert, I made individual trifles from this recipe; it was fun to assemble everything in wine glasses but it definitely took up too much space in the fridge....

It was great to get together with my family, some of whom live far away so we don't see each other often enough. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Well. It's been a while, hasn't it? It's amazing that I never really know where the time goes. As far as I know, Thanksgiving just happened, and then Christmas came up like a freight train. You know. First you can't hear it at all, and then it's just this vague, slightly familiar sound in the distance. And then before you have a chance to really process what that sound might be, it's RIGHT THERE and you have to run to stay ahead of it just long enough to let it pass by safely. Only, in this case, safely means everyone is together and well fed and gifts are purchased and wrapped on time despite all the other commitments.

I'm not quite done, mind you. We just had Christmas. Tomorrow is the big shindig for 10 people.

Today, just my parents and the four of us feasted on duck legs confit with miso cauliflower and these amazing Parker House Rolls from eat the love. I made the dough yesterday and stopped at the point where the rolls were in the pan before they were proofed. Today they proofed and baked and I topped them with Hawaiian black sea salt and they were just terrific. Yesterday I also made eggnog crème brulée and had them ready so all I had to do today was the brulée part and the garnish. Made things so much easier, giving us time to open presents in the morning and make a Lego Gingerbread House centerpiece. (It's pretty cute.)

Tomorrow there will be beef tenderloin, baked stuffed shrimp, Persian rice, and individual berry trifles. So much cooking!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Week of Feasting

After last Sunday's mini-Thanksgiving, we've continued to eat our way through the week. Monday we had a fondue night, with tiny potatoes, broccoli florets and bread and two different types of cheese fondue. Tuesday we went out for Thai food and Wednesday we had some leftovers to clear the fridge for the meals to come. On actual Thanksgiving I was working and our site director sent an entire traditional Thanksgiving meal which was good because it got busy and it was nice to have food ready to eat when we had a few moments.

Last night we went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, Red 8, in the new casino in Boston. We did not go into the casino part because not everyone in our party was over 21 but the whole place was quite the spectacle. After a whole lot of very good Chinese food we went to another restaurant, Sinatra, for dessert, most of which consisted of little pastries on a "gold record" made out of dark chocolate! It was Frank Sinatra themed, after all.

Tonight we finally had our family Thanksgiving, with my parents, while also celebrating my father's birthday. I made the pumpkin pie a few days ago but last night started the candied cranberries for a garnish. This recipe for pumpkin pie really is terrific. Yesterday morning I made the apple pie, this time cooking the apples first before baking them in the pie. I am really pleased with how this turned out. Also, I used honeycrisp apples instead of Cortlands and I think I like that better. I also made a quick cranberry-pomegranate sauce by making cranberry sauce and tossing in the seeds from half a pomegranate at the last minute.

Mom made the sweet potatoes again and, again, I overbroiled the marshmallows but this time I got them out before they entirely burned. Whoops. My husband got the turkey brining on Thursday while I was at work which was so helpful, and I made the stuffing yesterday. So today, between raking leaves and running to the store for last minute things, we got everything cooked and on the table by 4 pm.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and, Happy Birthday, Dad!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Pre-Holiday Feast

This year, instead of one large Thanksgiving meal I'm hosting two smaller ones. The first was yesterday, with pork roasted with onions and potatoes, applesauce, butternut squash, an apple pie and pumpkin bread pudding.

The pumpkin bread came from my first attempt to make pumpkin muffins a few weeks ago. The bottoms had burnt because my oven is so unreliable, so I sliced off the burnt parts and froze the rest. Yesterday I tore up the muffins into a 9x13 baking dish and added a custard: 2 cups milk, 4 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon. This was baked at 350˚ for about 25 minutes which was just enough to set the custard. It was served with salted caramel sauce.

The apple pie was tricky because I was trying to not add as much water to the crust - which worked because it turned out very flaky and light - but which made it harder to roll out so when I went to put the top crust on it broke into several pieces. The elderchild and I patched it together and made a bunch of leaf cut-outs to cascade down the ugly side and made it quite lovely, I think. I'll have another opportunity to try it since I plan to make another pie for Saturday's meal.

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Melancholy Day

It's overcast, and cold, and it might snow tomorrow. After discovering yesterday that my bees were gone I needed to get into the hives and clean them out. I didn't need the smoker, but I got into my suit just in case.

Hebee's hive was just...empty. No bees, not even a lot of dead ones. It appears they just left. They left their honey behind, though. Which I'm currently straining (the combs have to warm up first, so the honey will flow better) and so far have gotten about a pint.

Beeyoncé's hive was almost empty. There were a handful of bees, moving slowly in the cold. There were a lot of dead bees on the floor of the hive, and there was still honey in that hive, too. I left it for them, in case they suddenly and unexpectedly rally.

I really can't explain this. I even saw honeybees on my Montauk daisies less than a month ago.

Every time I lose a colony I do a lot of soul-searching about it. Maybe I did something wrong (likely). Maybe being a beekeeper or a bee guardian or whatever it is that I do isn't working and isn't for me (possibly). Maybe next time will be better (or not). I think I will give it one more go, with the Langstroth in the springtime, and see what happens. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

No Bees?

At least, I don't think so. Last I checked they were doing OK, but I haven't checked on them in a while. Today it was warmer and while I was doing yard work I went to see them, figuring it was almost time to insulate the hives (the usual recommendation is around Thanksgiving). I will have to suit up tomorrow to get a closer look but there were almost none to be found, in either colony. My best guess is that they died, but I don't have a good sense of when. This is so frustrating! I felt like they'd been having a good year. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Time for More Applesauce

When we went apple picking last month we split the half-bushel between Honeycrisps and Cortlands. I made a pie with some of the Cortlands but had a bunch left which were destined for applesauce. It's been a while but I finally got to that today. It's a good thing apples last a long time!

This time instead of using the food mill I cut the apples (there were 7) into tiny chunks and boiled them with water alone. If you add sugar before the boiling process then the chunks do not break down. Once they were soft, I crushed them with the spoon and then added a bunch of sugar, maybe a little less than a cup. This worked out to a little more than three pints of applesauce. Which is good, because we'd run out.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Last Step in the Process

Yesterday I cut the last two pounds of Jerusalem artichokes thinly, along with some turmeric root, and brined them. This morning I made the vinegar solution: cider vinegar, rice vinegar (I didn't have white wine vinegar), water, cloves, chili peppers, bay leaves, sugar and mustard powder. Apparently I ran out of mustard seeds and forgot to get more so I just added more powder instead.

All this made 6 8-ounce jars of pickles which I processed in boiling water for 10 minutes and let rest for 5 before removing from the canner. They're cooling now. One jar is a little emptier than the rest, I'll use that one to test the pickles in about a week or so.

Now the only thing left is the fermentation of the other pickles which should be for about 5 more days at the minimum. Hopefully they'll be a successful experiment!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Jerusalem Artichoke Update

After getting the first batch of Jerusalem artichoke pickles fermenting, I set aside two pounds to make the brined pickle from Hank Shaw's blog. The rest were boiled in milk and water, mashed with butter, salt, pepper, and a little of the cooking liquid, and served with dinner. They were really tasty! But, definitely not food for company as all the legends about sunchokes are, unfortunately, true.

And yet, I have just sliced the remaining two pounds with turmeric root and they are currently brining until tomorrow, at which time I'll make the vinegar pickle.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Autumn Roots

Several years ago I asked my sister for Jerusalem artichoke (aka sunchoke) rhizomes so I could plant some in my yard. I'd discovered these years ago, when I lived in Pennsylvania, and thought they might be fun to grow.

"Fun" led to "take over the garden." It was time to dig some up.

Two days ago I cut them back for the season and, since it had been after a frost, dug up a lot of the rhizomes for the first time. And by some, I mean five pounds! But, they apparently don't keep for long in the fridge so I needed to get some of them taken care of.

Today's project was to make these fermented sunchoke pickles. I forgot I didn't have turmeric so I used some curry powder my family gave me for my birthday which worked just fine. Tomorrow if I have time and energy I'll make a vinegar pickle, maybe this one, as well. The rest I plan to roast. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Personal Pies

The weather has not been kind this last week as far as the farm share is concerned. The tomato plants died in the frost so this was likely the last week for any tomatoes. The raspberries aren't getting enough sun to ripen so there were very few to pick. It took a while but my husband and I were able to get almost a full half-pint of berries. They weren't very pretty, or big, or even necessarily at the peak of ripeness. After giving half to my friend as her part of the share, I had a tiny amount of berries. What to do?

What I did have was a little bit of leftover pie crust dough from last weekend. I rolled it out and lined four small ramekins with crust. Then I divided up the raspberries and a handful of blueberries I also had in the house, sprinkled on some sugar mixed with cornstarch and cinnamon, and added a top crust. These were baked, uncovered, in a 350˚F oven for about 35 minutes. Voilá, instant personal pies!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Fair News

After baking for days, this morning I had everything almost ready to bring up to the fair. I'd made bread, again, and an apple pie, and apricot ginger muffins, and my favorite pie, chocolate sweet potato with maple candied bacon and bourbon whipped cream. I finished the whipped cream, crumbled the bacon onto the pie and then coated it with whipped cream and a last little sprinkle of bacon. Then we were off to Topsfield.

After dropping off the baked goods we checked out the canning winners. I'm pleased to report that, out of 15 entries, I placed in all 15! Best in show went to my friend for a mango conserve that sounds really tasty. Here's my list:

  1. First Place for sauerkraut, salsa verde, sweet relish (the pepper one), stone fruit jam, mulberry ginger jelly, and peach jam. I was really hoping that peach jam would win, it was, in my opinion, terrific.
  2. Second Place for canned whole tomatoes, dill pickles, pickled beets and sliced peaches in syrup.
  3. Third Place for the peach salsa, sweet pickles and blackberry jam.
  4. Honorable Mention for the spicy cranberry rhubarb conserve and the zucchini bread and butter pickles.

Next we went to the beekeeping exhibits and checked out the baking with honey competition. Of all my entries (five in total) the scones, brownies, bread and peach salsa all won Second Place and the banana bread won Third.

Then it was time for the judging of the entries in the food department. I was hopeful because for the last two years I'd entered one category each year and placed first. This time I entered four categories and crossed my fingers. In the muffin category I received an Honorable Mention (there were only four entries, so at first I thought it was just because I came in fourth but later I discovered that not all classes had an Honorable Mention awarded so the judges did feel it was worthy enough for that). In the two-crust pie competition I placed third out of five entries. In the bread category I placed third out of eight. Sadly, my favorite pie, the sweet potato one, didn't win anything at all. I must admit I was disappointed, particularly because that is the one I worked the most on. The one thing I wish they'd change is to give an opportunity for feedback. I'm not sure how we can improve if we don't know what the judges liked or didn't like about an entry.

Anyway, that's about all we did other than watch a duck race and see the bunnies. Then it was time to head home so the youngerchild could do homework. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Almost Ready

Not pictured: Banana Bread
The Baking with Honey entries have been delivered to the fairgrounds. I have been up since 5 am baking bread, making Earl Grey white chocolate ganache (for the scones) and generally getting everything ready. I'm super tired, as I only went to bed at 1 am!

See, I got home from my first shift at my new job at 12:30 am and then I needed to form the loaves of bread and get them proofing. Prior experience has taught me they don't need that long to proof and so I set my alarm for 5 am. That was perfect timing. The bread got baked, it smelled lovely (tasted lovely, too. I may or may not have eaten almost half a loaf just now for lunch....) and I had enough time to coat the scones with ganache, cut the brownies, get everything wrapped up and loaded in the car.

After I dropped the youngerchild off at the bus stop I went to my riding lesson at which I almost got kicked; the horse I've been riding lately gets rather anxious when being tacked up but is fine basically the rest of the time so I'm learning how to avoid his teeth and hooves while still getting him ready. I was able to scoot out of the way this time! As soon as my lesson was over I drove straight to Topsfield and got all my entries checked in. Then I headed home and got cleaned up.

Now I have to plan the entries in the regular Foods Department competitions. I entered in 4 categories: yeast bread, muffins, 2-crust pie and 1-crust pie. All that baking will happen on Saturday. Sunday we'll head up to the fair and I'll see how well my entries did!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

And So the Baking Begins

The Topsfield Fair opens this weekend. 

My canning entries have been in for weeks. The Beekeeping and Honey Division entries are due Thursday and the Foods Department entries will be brought up on Sunday when we go to the fair. we're going on Sunday this year because we do have school commitments on Saturday and each day of that first weekend has different baking categories in which to compete.

Regardless, I need to do the Baking with Honey entries as those are due first. Today I made a batch of Honey Fudge Brownies and also a loaf of Banana Bread. Both recipes are from The Vermont Beekeeper's Cookbook, from which I found last year's prizewinning Honey Cheesecake recipe. I won't cut the brownies until it's time to bring them up on Thursday. Each of these items seemed to be things I could cool and wrap and refrigerate without the flavor or texture being affected. Tomorrow I'll make the honey scones and start the bread dough. I already have a jar of Peach Salsa which was made with honey so I thought I'd try to enter that as well.

Monday, September 30, 2019

A Different Technique

Last year I foraged a lot of black walnuts, ran them under the car tires to get the husks off, and left them to dry in the garage. Then I forgot about them until they were rather unpleasant to deal with. I decided that this year, if I did get more black walnuts, I would be more proactive.

On Thursday I foraged about 5 dozen nuts. I was lucky to find a branch that had fallen off the tree but was loaded with nuts which, while not fully ripe, are hopefully ripe enough. I tried driving over a few and crushed the nuts entirely so I had to find a different technique to remove the husks. I found a suggestion to blanch them and then they would be more easy to slip off. I guess that is if the husks are fully ripe. However, I did blanch them and used a paring knife to remove the husks and they are now drying on the boiler in the basement. In a month I will try to crack them open and see if it was worth it.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Spaghetti Sauce

For a while now I've been meaning to make spaghetti sauce. Since I've been on a roll with plum tomatoes from the farm share, I thought this week I could try this recipe for spaghetti sauce and make a few jars. Yesterday I picked about 13 pounds of plum tomatoes and today, while waiting to get my chimney swept, I started a half batch. It took roughly four hours to cook to the right consistency and then a while to get it all canned (mainly because I had to take the youngerchild back to school for a club meeting which is a 40 minute round-trip so I had to wait until I got back to actually boil the water in the canner).

Ultimately I ended up with a little more than four quarts of sauce. I quite like it, I do think the soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce add depth and a little punch to the flavor. Plus, I used a bunch of onions and peppers from the share so that helped make a dent in the huge piles of vegetables I've accumulated over the past few weeks.

The other thing I did today was make a compound butter with duck fat. To properly experience this glorious creation we made corn bread for dinner and it was, indeed, lovely.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

State of Well Bee-ing

It's a gorgeous day and, after a short hike and some baking, I went out to inspect the hives. The bees have been swarming my currently flowering ivy with gusto so while most of them were occupied it seemed like a good time. I am pleased to report that I saw both Beeyoncé and Hebee. Hebee's colony is doing better in general, they have more honey but about the same amount of brood. They both were fairly well behaved, even though my smoker was not, and I think things are looking good.

Trial Run

Next week I'll be doing a lot of baking for the fair. First of all, I want to enter a few things in the Baking With Honey competitions. I made scones with honey a few weeks ago which I'll do again but I wanted to try bread again. Last night I tweaked the bread recipe I use with Legion to increase the amount of honey as my previous attempt was described as "not enough honey."

The proportions are: 16 oz. Legion, 38 oz. bread flour, 1/2 cup honey, 2-1/2 cups water, and 2 T. salt.

I'm happy with the crumb, and an independent observer said she could taste the honey, as I can't right now (I have a cold). I'll make another batch in a week and have it ready to enter as of Thursday morning. It'll be tricky because I'm starting a new job and my first shift is Wednesday evening, getting out at midnight. Hopefully I can get it all together!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Tomatoes Are Still Going Strong

This week at the farm we continued with the unlimited availability of peppers, tomatoes, kale and herbs. I heard there were also green beans but I never did find them. Regardless, after the success with the pizza sauce last week I thought I'd try tomato sauce again. I picked enough plum tomatoes to make 20 cups of tomato purée so I made a larger batch of the "Italian-Style Tomato Sauce" in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The one change I made was that since I didn't have celery I used a bulb of fennel instead. After cooking everything down, I ended up with just under 7 pints of sauce. I vaguely remember making this recipe before, and it isn't really spaghetti sauce, but I suppose I could use it as a base and add meat.

There are four more weeks of the farm share and then the season will be over. I have started to accumulate a lot of squash and onions which should last for at least a month after the distribution ends for the year.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Week Summary

Currently, I have a batch of pizza sauce in the canner. This is another thing I've not made before but since the farm share keeps offering unlimited produce I felt like it was a thing to try. I brought home just over 9 pounds of plum tomatoes yesterday, just enough to make a batch, using the recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, page 366. For this, I used the 12 ounce jars, since I feel that we often open a jar of pizza sauce and then only use half of it. Maybe this is still too much in a jar but we'll just have to commit to using more of it.

Also this week I turned in all my canning entries so I'm done making canned goods for the fair. I'm not done making things for the fair, though, but now we've turned to the baking part. In an experiment, I made my usual bread with a few changes in technique. First of all, I made the bread with all bread flour and a whole lot more water: 16 ounces starter (Legion), 38 ounces bread flour, 4 T. sugar, roughly 22-24 ounces water, 2 T. salt. Then I turned the dough into an oiled bowl and used the pinch and turn technique I used most recently for the baguettes a few weeks ago. This dough is much stiffer and difficult to do this way but I wanted to see what happened. What did happen was we got a nice, spongy crumb with a few extra air pockets in it. Not what I expected but still very good. I might try a few more tweaks before I have to make a batch for the fair.

Lastly, I made a cheesecake using the honey cheesecake recipe that won last year in the baking with honey division. I'd never actually tried it again so had no idea how it was. Well, it may now be my go-to cheesecake. It was the smoothest cheesecake I've ever made, and it didn't crack, either! My trick there was to turn the oven off just before I though it was done and then leave it in the oven to cool down more slowly. And so easy: 2 pounds of cream cheese, 2/3 cup honey, 4 eggs and some vanilla, poured over a graham cracker crust and baked at 300˚F for about an hour.

I'm still trying to decide what to bake for the fair in general. It depends on which day I can go on that first weekend as there are different categories competing on different days. I won't really know which day I can go until much closer to the actual weekend. It's also Parents' Weekend for the youngerchild's school and I'm starting a new job that week as well!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tomato Jam

One thing I have never been particularly convinced of was tomato jam. Every time I received a jar via my mom's neighbors it was a solid gelatinous lump of tomato, not particularly spreadable. But I try to keep an open mind and, since I have so many tomatoes from the farm, thought it might be time to make this and see for myself.

A little online research and I found this recipe, with fresh ginger and not requiring me to peel the tomatoes. I had 4.5 pounds of tomatoes so scaled up the recipe and got it simmering. After about an hour and a half (maybe the hotplate was too high...) it had cooked down into the right texture. Not gelatinous, much more spreadable. It tastes like spicy ketchup and it's really, really good.

As a good rough estimate, 1 pound of tomatoes equals one cup of jam at the end. Everything just came out of the canner now and I can't wait to use it as a spread!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

...and Tomatillos

One thing I like about making salsa - it's quick! Because I roast the tomatillos or tomatoes, onions, garlic and serrano peppers under the broiler and then blend them to a fine salsa, I find it easy to make a batch whenever I have enough of all the ingredients. Today's farm share had unlimited tomatillos so it was time to make more salsa verde. Just in the last hour I was able to make 5 half-pints. 

Lots More Tomatoes

This is just what isn't already in the fridge, in the canner, or on the counter!
Since last week I canned tomatoes whole and was reminded how easy it was, I grabbed a whole bunch more salad tomatoes (the uniform sized ones) and canned them in pints and quarts. I also added fresh basil to the jars. I am hoping to enter these in the fair instead of last week's batch because I managed to get one more tomato into each jar and I didn't use any salt in the hopes that they won't float as much. We shall see.

All told, this was what I brought home today:
2 cantaloupes, 1 yellow watermelon, 2 pounds of golden beets, 1 spaghetti squash, 1 kabocha squash, 1 black futsu squash, a lot of potatoes, 1 pound carrots, 2 shallots, 3 sweet onions, 3 yellow onions, 2 eggplant, 4 peppers, 1 head of cabbage, 1 large handful each of braising mix (greens) and arugula, 3 heirloom tomatoes, 4 regular tomatoes, 10 pints worth of salad tomatoes, 2.5 pounds of tomatillos, parsley, cilantro, basil, 5 serrano peppers, 9 sweet "lunchbox peppers," about a dozen leaves of kale, 1 quart of sungold cherry tomatoes, 1 bunch Hakurei turnips, and 2 heads of broccoli.

Here's what I skipped: dill, other herbs, flowers, blackberries, other hot peppers, husk cherries, green beans, plum tomatoes, and "slicing" tomatoes (likely something like beefsteak).

I think I need a root cellar. This is a bad time of year for my share-mate to be out of town for 2 weeks in a row!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Late Summer Fruits

Yesterday's farm share was full of tomatoes. In fact, there was a sign saying they thought the season would be short so we should get whatever we could. I picked a whole lot of "salad tomatoes" and brought them home. What I like about them is that they are all exactly the same size. A little bigger than the Jolly tomato the farm used to plant, and not as pink. They look more like the Campari tomatoes you see in the store. Regardless, they're great to can whole and I had enough to make six pints of canned whole tomatoes.

Then I dealt with the last of the peaches. I'll admit I'm not sure why, but I wanted to make a batch of jam without pectin. I haven't ever really done that so it seemed like I ought to try. Peaches are low pectin fruits but I cooked them for a very long time and it seems to have worked. Basically, I diced the last six pounds of peaches, mixed them with lemon juice and three cups of sugar, and let everything sit for a few hours. Then I cooked them slowly until most of the liquid was gone and the gel test demonstrated the right consistency. This made six and a half cups of jam. And I think the flavor is more intense than when the jam is made with added pectin. It certainly uses less sugar! This batch will get entered in the fair. I had thought about entering the tomatoes, and I still might, but they do shrink during canning and seeing them float with at least an inch of water at the bottom of the jar isn't very attractive. I have 14 entries set aside so far so maybe I don't have to.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Peach Salsa

One of the things I wanted to try with all those peaches I got this season was a peach salsa. I found a recipe that uses honey as the sweetener which is also appealing to me. I used a recipe I found online but increased the jalapeños because I had more that I wanted to use up. Here's my tweaked recipe: 

12 large ripe peaches, peeled and diced
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup honey
1 large red onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
4 T. chopped fresh cilantro

Mix all the ingredients except for the peaches and set aside in a bowl. As the peaches are chopped, add to the bowl, stirring to coat the peaches. Ladle into jars, leaving a half-inch headspace, and process for 25 minutes in boiling water. On taste-testing the salsa before it went into the canner I found it very garlicky but I suspect it will mellow with the processing.

Fermented Hot Sauce

Using this recipe, for the last week I've been fermenting various red and yellow peppers along with carrots, garlic and shallots. Today I ran it all through not just one but two blenders (the first one is the kind in which you can unscrew the bottom with the blades and this happened accidentally, so a lot of my sauce got spilled onto the counter). Ultimately I got one cute bottle full and one squeeze bottle full. It's rather mild, likely because I didn't add too many seeds and because the peppers themselves were milder. Either way, now we have some chili sauce and a way to use up all those hot peppers!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Canned Peaches with Ginger

After gradually working through most of the canned peaches and other things I made when I had that peach tree, it was time to see if my favorite farm might have freestone peaches available. Last week I put my name in for a half-bushel (20 pounds) of B-grade peaches. Today they called me to let me know they had some and, as luck would have it, I was in the vicinity of the farm for a good part of the day. So it was an easy side trip to stop by on my way home. (The farm is about 40 miles from my house.)

This evening I made canned peaches. To make eight pints of peaches I used up about 10 pounds, leaving another 10 pounds for other projects (I plan to make peach salsa tomorrow). The peaches were peeled, sliced, and warmed up in medium syrup. Then they were packed into jars and 3-4 pieces of candied ginger were added to each jar. I plan to enter some in the fair; I don't usually enter fruit in syrup like this but it can't hurt to try!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Adventures in Beekeeping

The flaw in my reasoning yesterday was that not just a few bees hovered around the honeycombs trying to find their way home. ALL my bees, it seemed, discovered a bunch of honey "just lying around" and decided to bring it home with them. This is called robbing. Usually a stronger hive robs a weaker one. Leaving a bunch of unattended honeycomb is probably the weakest hive they've ever encountered and they took full advantage. The backyard was unusable yesterday due to the Beemageddon.

Finally, after dark, there were only a few confused bees left. I put my bee suit back on and set to work getting all that was left inside. All told, I think they got back half the honey I'd taken. I guess that's OK. It means I don't have to feed the colonies as much this fall, I suppose. Anyway, some of the honeycomb had been in a colander straining during the heat of the day and a LOT of bees were stuck in that honey. There was nothing I could do but heat the honey and strain out all the dead bees. That yielded over a pint. Then I started more of the comb to straining overnight and throughout the day today. Finally, I gradually melted all the comb and strained out the wax. And put my bee suit back on today and hosed down the patio so the bees would finally give up and go away.

In all, I harvested just under 3 pints of honey. I don't know yet how much wax I have as it's cooling; I'll weigh it later.

This is the sort of experience I hope to avoid once I get my flow hive up and running next year. 

Saturday, August 24, 2019


Today the weather is perfect and I went out to inspect the bees. First I may have finally solved the problem of my smoker going out too quickly - I used wood pellets that are meant for wood stoves. (We have them because they make excellent litter for the rabbit's litter box. We do not have a wood stove.) The smoker stayed lit and smoking exuberantly for the entire time I needed smoke. That was a nice change of pace.

In Beeyoncé's hive, there was a reasonable amount of honey and some brood cells. I did not see her highness the queen, but I didn't inspect every comb. Things were looking fine so I let them alone.

In the Langstroth, I moved all the top bars out which were moderately full of honey without any evidence of brood. There weren't a lot of bees left, either. The box got refilled with its original frames and will be ready to start a new colony in the spring.

In the other top bar, I found evidence of a new laying queen (larvae and brood cells, not just drone cells). And then I saw the new queen herself. She shall be called Hebee. (Hebe was the goddess of youth in ancient Greek mythology.) This hive also had a decent amount of honey and so I will continue to let them do their thing. Clearly they already have, as I have no idea how they managed to requeen but I'm glad they did.

I took all the bars from the Langstroth and am slowly extracting honey. I crushed some of the combs and they are in a strainer set over a pot in the sun. Right now, everything is outside basically attracting all the bees who are coming to get what honey they can. By nightfall they should be back in their hives and I'll be able to bring everything into the house at which point I can do a better job of getting the honey out of the rest. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Even More Unlimited Produce

Also in this week's farm share: unlimited tomatillos! I'd saved up a few from last week and got what I could find this week. It's still pretty early in the season for the tomatillos, but I managed to get enough that I could make a batch of salsa verde along with a fresh bunch of cilantro. When I weighed the tomatillos I had 1.5 pounds, enough for just over three half-pint jars of salsa. Two will go to the fair. I'm sure I'll make more before the end of the season.

The other thing I've started is a fermented hot sauce. I got everything into a jar to ferment yesterday afternoon. I'm using red and yellow peppers, mostly: some Korean chilis, a few cherry bombs, and various sweet red and yellow peppers. This may be an easier way to deal with all the hot peppers I get from the farm considering we just can't keep up with them all!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Slightly Past Their Prime

In today's farm share there were unlimited blackberries. That's a cause for celebration because I can get enough to make jam! However, it's late enough in the season that the really large and beautiful berries were starting to get soft and even ferment a little. You could smell them before you even got to the bushes. Nevertheless, I picked three quarts.

Once home, as I washed them I picked out the mushiest berries, the ones that basically disintegrated under the running water. The rest went into the pot with a packet of sure-jell pectin. I added 2 T. of lemon juice as a way to offset the overly sweet and slightly fermented berries; the boiling process seems to have gotten rid of the rest of the alcohol taste. After adding in 6.5 cups of sugar and finishing the cooking, I had 11 cups of jam. Two will be set aside for the fair and a few will go to my friend as her part of this week's blackberry distribution.

I have a few more plans with the accumulated produce from last week and this one; I will make salsa verde and also try my hand at a fermented hot pepper sauce. More on those later when I have time. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A Little Too Much

Of what? Of ghost pepper powder. But it's too late now, I guess...

I wanted to make more things for the fair, so I pulled out some of my cranberries and rhubarb and made a double batch of the Cranberry-Rhubarb Compote I like so much. I added a very heaping 1/4 teaspoon, closer to a 1/2 of a teaspoon, of ghost pepper powder. Yikes! I hope the flavor mellows before the judges taste it. Then again, maybe they like spicy?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Almost Four Weeks of Fermentation

Since I had a lot of time today, I decided to see if the sauerkraut I set to fermenting last month was ready. Since the flavor didn't really change from a few days ago when I first tested it to today, it seemed ready. This is another thing I want to enter in the fair so I didn't want to wait too long and have it lose its crunch. (The crunch is from the fennel, I think.)

First, I tested its pH. I wasn't convinced it was acidic enough to can in a boiling water bath. Turns out, it is. The pH was just under 4 so that is well within range. Then I packed all that sauerkraut, which had barely fit in my crock in the beginning, into five pint jars. They'll process for 10 minutes and then that is one more project completed!

Four Weeks of Beets

For the last four weeks I've picked up the full share of beets from the farm. I tried specifically to get the smallest ones so I could pickle them whole, which I prefer. Today I had a chunk of time so spent the whole morning preparing and then pickling them. It's a good thing I did - the beets almost overflowed my 8 qt. stockpot!

With that many beets, I tripled the recipe for the liquid (The Ball Complete Book of Canning, page 311) and came away with 5 quarts of pickled beets; one quart was divided into two pint jars for the fair. There was another pint and a half that didn't fit into a jar so I poured the rest of the pickling liquid over them and they're in the fridge for salads this week.

I was supposed to help my neighbors pick apples from their tree; the other day I stopped by on their behalf and there were a whole bunch of apples there. Today I went to help them and there were exactly 3 apples. There was no sign that the apples had fallen, the driveway and yard around the base of the tree were as clean as a whistle. Do people go around and steal fruit from people's trees? Is that a thing? Weird.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Two Weeks Later

And my Sweet Icicle Pickles have finally been canned! After they sit in a brine for a week, then they have a day in which they sit in freshly boiled water. Then a syrup of vinegar, sugar and spices is boiled and ladled over the pickles. Then daily for 4 more days the syrup is drained, boiled, and repoured over the pickles. Finally, today, they got canned.

I did try one the other day and it wasn't as sweet as my nose was telling me it would be. They also had more of a crunch than I was expecting. I guess all this work is worth it, after all. I did set aside two smaller jars for the fair so now I have 6 entries so far. There should be a few more before the end of this month - entries are due by September 3 so I have to get going!

Monday, August 12, 2019

All Day Affair

Both the projects I made for tonight's dinner took most of a day or more.

First, I made baguettes. To be fair, I made them for a little party yesterday, but the recipe made three baguettes so I had one left for dinner tonight. I used a recipe my friend had developed (he has some of Legion and so adapted a couple of recipes to use the starter instead of making a new poolish from scratch each time):
16 oz bread flour
6 oz starter
1 tsp salt
pinch of instant yeast
9+ oz water

Put the flour in the mixer, make a well in the center for the starter. Sprinkle the yeast and salt around the edge of the bowl (not touching the starter). Add the water and mix. Knead in the mixer for about 15 minutes until the dough is wrapped around the bread hook and is elastic and smooth. Turn out and quickly shape into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover. Then you can take as little as 6 hours, doing a fold of the dough hourly (pull up the dough from the sides and form a pouch like a dumpling) or a whole day or more by putting the dough in the fridge and doing the folds less frequently. I think I ended up doing 8 folds over an entire 29 hours (I was working in between all these steps). Then yesterday I got up at 4 am to shape and proof the loaves in a couche. At 6 am the loaves were in the oven (spritz with water and score with a lam first), 420˚F, boiling water tray for the first 10 minutes and then 15-20 minutes without the boiling water. (Then I went to work.) The general feedback was that the bread needed more salt but that the crust was firm and the inside was soft and full of big holes, which is what I was trying to achieve.

Then today I worked on this recipe for "Sunday Sauce." I'm not really sure how it's supposed to taste, but it smelled like one of the Italian restaurants we like, so I guess I did OK. I got it all on the stove and simmering by noon and it simmered all afternoon until about 6 pm. Maybe that was too long, but it seemed fine. We have a LOT of sauce and meatballs left over.

The other thing I made today was a sweet pepper relish, using the recipe in "The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving," page 164. Since I plan to enter this in the fair, I need to remember that I used 9 long sweet peppers, some dark green and some light, 2 very large onions, and 5 Hungarian hot wax peppers. Those were all from the farm share, as last week's distribution was rather pepper-heavy. There aren't really any cucumbers anymore. My last batch of pickles, the sweet icicle ones, are almost done. I have one more day in which I drain the syrup, boil it and put it back over the cucumbers. I'm not really sold on this one, I have to say. It reminds me of watermelon rind pickles which, while fun to make, were too cloyingly sweet for me.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019


This morning, before the thunderstorms come through, I geared up and went to check on my colonies. The one in the Langstroth is definitely queenless but probably too far gone to requeen now. They are busy making honey and otherwise are very docile. There weren't that many bees left.

The other half of that colony does also appear to be queenless, and they are less docile. There are more of them, too, but definitely on the way out.

I did not go into the other top bar colony, as I know from before Beeyoncé ended up in there. I'll inspect them on another day.

All this information leaves me with an opportunity. I will let the colony in the Langstroth go and then move the original frames back in there. Some of that honey I can harvest and some I can move into Beeyoncé's hive when I start getting them ready for winter. The same is true for the other queenless top bar colony. I'll have to watch closely to make sure nothing comes to rob the honey before I can clean it all out. This way I can help Beeyoncé's colony make it through the winter and also start fresh with a new colony in the Langstroth next year. Which will also give me time to get a better base and location for that colony. I might use the stand my husband built for the original top bar hive so I don't have to bend over as much to inspect the hive. And it gives me time to build the flow hive I purchased to put on top of the Langstroth; clearly I won't need it this season.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Parsley Garlic Bread

Using Legion, I made a batch of parsley garlic bread. As I mentioned in the previous post, the recipe calls for bread and rye flours, neither of which I had. Instead, I had all purpose flour, corn flour and white whole wheat flour, so I used a combination of those. The parsley is mixed in at the end of the kneading process and the garlic gets folded in before proofing. I made two loaves - one round and one more like a ciabatta. The proofing took far less time than anticipated so even though the fermentation step took all night, the proofing took about 90 minutes. I ended up baking them in the morning yesterday before I went to work.

For dinner last night I made cheese fondue and we used one of the loaves as the dipping bread. The garlic added a really great flavor to the meal. The rest of the cut up cubes will be frozen and saved to make stuffing when Thanksgiving rolls around. I have the round loaf yet to use but that will need to be used soon before it goes stale. Maybe for dinner tonight or tomorrow?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Fun with the Farm Share

The farm's cucumbers are still going strong so today I brought home just under 4 pounds and am making "Icicle Pickles." These are fermented for a week and then rinsed daily for a few days and then pickled. I'm not really sure. As I've never made them before, it'll be interesting to see how they come out. So far, I've made the brine and cut the cucumbers into spears and they are in two half-gallon jars to ferment.

I also started a batch of bread with parsley in it; when I go to make the dough into rolls (or loaves, I haven't decided yet) I will add minced garlic. The bread recipe called for bread flour and rye flour, I had neither so I used a combination of white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, and corn flour. More experimentation, I guess.

Also in the farm share: lots of tiny little beets. I plan to make pickled beets using only these small ones. I like that better than chunks of bigger ones. Tonight for dinner we're having a big salad with blackberries, a cucumber, pepper and carrot from the share. Tomorrow I will cook and chill green beans and tiny little potatoes to dip into a cheese fondue. It's sometimes hard for me to be creative with vegetables in a way that the youngerchild might eat. I do have a large zucchini destined to become chocolate zucchini bread. That one is always a favorite.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Stone Fruit Jam

As I mentioned yesterday, the youngerchild and I went a little overboard at the grocery store and bought a lot of different stone fruits. There is no way we can eat them all before they spoil so I decided to make up a recipe for Stone Fruit Jam:

5 cups finely chopped stone fruits
(I mixed 1 cup of cherries, 1 cup of apricots and 1 each of: yellow peach, pluot, and aprium)
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin

This made just under 8 cups of jam which is very dark red because of the cherries but tastes a lot like peaches. I plan to enter this one in the fair.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

National Cheesecake Day!

While the youngerchild and I were at the store today we went a little crazy buying fruit. I intended to make a stone fruit crisp and we bought two different kinds of peaches, apricots, pluots, apriums, and cherries. But then I learned it was National Cheesecake Day and I changed my plans.

Fortunately, I try to keep the fridge stocked with cheesecake ingredients and I didn't have to head back out to the store. I made a New York Style cheesecake but put some cut peaches, apricots and cherries on the crust before pouring the cheesecake batter. Then, when it had cooled, I made a quick glaze with gelatin and put fresh fruit on the top. It was lovely.

Also, tonight's meal finally used up the last of the pulled pork in mole sauce. We'd made tacos the first night, pulled pork sandwiches after that, and then tonight the rest became enchiladas with slices of avocado wrapped with the pork. All that from one pork shoulder!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Pulled Pork with Mole Sauce

Yesterday I cooked a pork shoulder in the slow cooker all day while I was at work. In the evening I shredded it and mixed a cup of that homemade mole sauce into the drippings. It was amazing. We made tacos with the pulled pork and, in my opinion, they were terrific with some salsa verde. There's a lot of the pork left over so we're definitely going to have to come up with something else for them. Maybe enchiladas?

Also, when I checked on the sauerkraut I needed to add more brine but the vegetables had, in fact, compressed down enough for me to adjust the weights. I added almost a quart of brine and now that will sit and ferment for a few weeks. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pickles and More Pickles

The farm share is still offering up unlimited pickling cucumbers and now, also, unlimited zucchini (there's a surprise). I decided on the spot to make another batch of those dill pickles I made last week and also a batch of bread and butter pickles but with zucchini instead of cucumbers.

Fifteen pickling cukes made five pints of dill pickles so, for future reference, about three cucumbers per wide mouth pint jar.

I brought home about three pounds of zucchini so used one large onion and halved the recipe for "Old Fashioned Bread-and-Butters" in The Joy of Pickling. This made exactly four pints, as expected, but one pint was split into two half-pint jars for the fair. I will enter the dill pickles in to the fair as well. 

Mixed Vegetable Sauerkraut

The farm share has been giving us lots of fennel bulbs and cabbage and I'd been planning on making this Fennel Sauerkraut. However, I also had a couple of bulbs of kohlrabi from a previous week. I had been saving up all the cabbage, hoping to use all three heads. My fermenter can only hold so much, and I was only able to use 1 and a half heads. I guess I need to find another use for the rest of the cabbage. Also, I only used celery seeds as I don't like caraway and I'm allergic to juniper. Here's my recipe:

1.5 large heads of cabbage, about 3.5 pounds, shredded
2 bulbs fennel, about 1 pound, sliced thinly
2 bulbs kohlrabi, about 1 pound, sliced into very thin matchsticks
50 g kosher salt
1 tsp and a little bit of celery seed

Otherwise, the process is the same. I had to really cram the weights in but I suspect that by tomorrow afternoon when the vegetables have compressed a bit I'll be able to get the weights in more easily.

I also have a plan to make more of those dill pickles I made last week, but I need more garlic. And I also grabbed a bunch of small zucchinis and will need to get onions so I can make bread and butter zucchini pickles. This is, of course, in addition to the carrots, beets, eggplant, lettuce, kale, collard greens, and blackberries I also brought home!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


Original colony on the left, split-off colony on the right
Today I got out of work a little early and it was a nice 80˚F so I thought it would be a good time to get in and set up my new Langstroth hive. First I donned all my gear. Apparently, I can be taught. I went out and set up the base board on a piece of fieldstone and used some wood wedges and other small stones to level it. Then I brought out the rest of the pieces.

What I had found was that the 10 frame deep was a little too long for my top bars so I hammered 3 nails into each end and cut a few spacer bars to fit the shorter dimension, making little ledges on which the top bars could rest. I only did this for the bottom deep box. The upper one has 10 frames with foundation.

I decided to go into the original hive, which may or may not have lost Beeyoncé in my efforts to save the other colony. What I found in there was the most honey I have ever seen my hives produce and evidence they were queenless: some drone brood cells, an emergency queen cell (maybe 2) and a lot of bees who were somewhat annoyed by my mucking about. However, once I broke open a few of the honey cells that were attached to the sides, they got distracted by that and mostly left me alone. I could move 9 top bars into that bottom deep box so I did, making sure I had at least one emergency queen cell. Then I put the queen excluder on top of that and topped it off with the other deep box full of foundation frames.

For the remaining top bars, I consolidated and then closed up the hive. I think the next step here is to get another queen and then figure out when she arrives which colony needs her. I don't really plan on having 3 colonies but we will have to see how they do (this is the slippery slope by which I end up with an entire bee business, which I do not want).

Monday, July 22, 2019

Sweet Potato Soup

This post has been a little delayed, as I made the soup a few days ago but am just getting to writing it down now. While we were touring colleges on the west coast we ate lunch at True Food Kitchen. One of the dishes we really enjoyed was a sweet potato poblano soup so I decided to try to replicate it. It wasn't really the same but it was still good so here's the recipe:

2 Poblano peppers, roasted and peeled, then chopped
4 sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed, and boiled
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
salt and pepper
heavy cream

Sauté the onions in the butter until soft and then add the garlic, peppers and potato cubes. Sauté for a few minutes then add the stock and water, salt and pepper, and cilantro. Bring to a boil and simmer briefly. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then purée with an immersion blender. Stir in enough cream to get the consistency you want. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and more cilantro. 

In terms of making this again, for that amount of sweet potatoes I might add 1-2 more poblano peppers. You could feel the heat in your throat but it was rather subtle. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

My Plan Worked?


A few weeks ago I discovered that the bee colony split off from the main one was queenless. So I took some brood comb from the other hive and combined them. Today, before it got too crazy hot, I went out to remove the combiner board and check on things. I only went into that hive today and I'm reassured by what I found. They had chewed through the paper, everyone seemed to be getting along, and there was the thing I hoped to find: capped worker brood cells in the original section.

I did not go into the other hive, it's still pretty early in the day and they're full up of bees. When it cools down I will check on them. Meanwhile, I will plan to move one of my colonies into a Langstroth. I'm hoping this will help me deal with the cramped quarters issue more easily. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Unlimited Supply

Today's farm share was much less limited than usual. Apparently, some things are doing quite well with the rain. One of the unlimited items was pickling cucumbers. I grabbed 12, along with a large amount of shell peas and green beans. The herbs were also unlimited so I got a large bunch each of dill, cilantro and parsley.

After an early dinner I quickly made four pints of "Favorite Dill Pickles" from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving. Since I had fresh dill I was able to use that instead of dill seeds. This is a nice, middle-of-the-road dill pickle. Not too garlicky, not too vinegary, not too sweet.

There are a lot of patty pan squashes, as well as cabbage and fennel bulbs. I am hoping to make a sauerkraut with the cabbage and fennel together. But I have so many other vegetables to deal with!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Chicken in Mole Sauce

Recently my husband was in Houston and he came back with two containers of homemade mole sauce, a gift from people he met while he was there. Mole sauce, I have learned, is regional. Every part of Mexico has their own version. This version hails from Oaxaca.

And it is SPICY. I have no idea what is in it except the seeds from the hot peppers are visible. It's dark brown and basically a paste which we were told needed to be mixed with some sort of liquid, ideally whatever the pan drippings are.

For a relatively quick dinner, we picked up a rotisserie chicken and I shredded it. Most of the meat was put into a sauté pan with a pint of turkey stock and about 1 cup of the mole sauce. It simmered and thickened as I let the liquid evaporate off. (The rest of the chicken was mixed with water and taco seasoning as the youngerchild felt the mole sauce was too spicy.) From this chicken mole, we made tacos.

Diluting the mole sauce definitely helped make the kick more manageable, and you can just detect the subtle chocolate flavor. It's terrific. I'll bet using pulled pork would be just as good.

My Bees are Confusing Me

After splitting the colony about a month ago, and making sure there were queen cells in the second half, I left them alone for a while to settle themselves out. Today it's gorgeous outside, 70's and clear, so I went to go check on them. To my chagrin there was no evidence of a queen. There were some workers, and they were making honey like crazy, but there were also a lot of drones and very rare cells with larvae. Since workers can lay eggs but can only make drones, it's a good bet that without a queen the colony will die off.

I don't have the time to get a new queen and put it in right now, as we're going away for a bit, but after a chat with my husband it made sense to see if the other colony, which was full to the gills again inside the hive, might be thinking about swarming again. That way, if I found a queen cell or two, I could move them into the second hive. I got my combiner board prepped with newspaper (the two colonies stay separated until they adapt to each others' pheromones and then they eat through the paper to combine themselves). Then I went into the main hive. My first look in showed that there was comb all the way to the back and there were gaps so the bees were hanging out above the combs and had sealed the cover on. Once I pried to cover off, I was faced with hundreds of bees just sitting on the top of the hive. I still needed to get into it, though.

In order to do so, I had to bring out my nuc box because otherwise I had no room to move comb around to see anything. There was one comb, in the middle of the hive, which I could access easily so I pulled that one out and put it in the nuc box. Then I started inspecting and basically annoying all the bees. They lashed out at me a couple of times, whenever my smoker petered out, so I would be frantically trying to relight my smoker while surrounded by angry bees. I did get stung once, on my knee, through my suit. But otherwise it was fairly okay. Intimidating, but okay.

What I found was plenty of brood cells and LOTS of honey. So much so that I didn't take out the last few combs because I didn't want to disrupt them any further and there was no evidence at all of queen cells. So, despite there being probably way more bees than the space could accommodate, they didn't seem like they were going to leave.

Ultimately I moved 4 combs with a lot of brood cells into the second hive, with the combiner board in between. This is the confusing part - I never did see Beeyoncé but as soon as I put two of the four combs in, the bees started to fan, suggesting she was there. I took the combs back out and looked again but didn't see her.

So. Either Beeyoncé is now in the second hive and they will be requeened by this, which would require the original hive to make an emergency queen, or she's in the original hive and hopefully the second colony can make an emergency queen. With luck, by the time I can get in there again, if I find either hive is queenless I can get a new one before the end of July.

Lastly, I think I will start to transition them over to Langstroths. Top bar hives are supposed to be easier but it's much harder to prevent swarms this way than with the Langstroth. Plus I am considering getting a flow hive box for the top to make the honey extraction easier since I wouldn't be getting involved with a centrifuge to extract honey. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Strawberry Tart

That looks like a strawberry, right?
Yesterday after work I made a quick tart with more of those strawberries. I made a half-recipe of pie crust and pre-baked in a tart dish for about 10 minutes. After that, I arranged about 3 cups of strawberry halves in crust, sprinkled with sugar and topped with a strawberry shaped piece of crust. The whole thing baked for about 30 minutes at 375˚F and, as soon as it came out of the oven, I brushed it with saffron syrup.

Between yesterday and today, with all the consumption of tarts and shortcake and plain strawberries, we only have one quart left!

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Strawberry Season

This morning, before the humidity set in, the children and I went strawberry picking. Before going I carefully looked at my strawberry jam inventory and declared we did not need to pick quite so many berries as usual. We set out, only a few minutes later than usual, and even though we arrived 10 minutes after they opened there were at least 20 people in the field before we got there.

As it turned out, the picking was so good we filled seven quart containers (about 11 pounds) in a very short period of time. We munched on fresh berries and warm cider donuts, admired the bunnies and goats, and headed home.

After a college tour this afternoon (yes, we're in that stage now) we got home and I quickly made shortcake for tonight. Then I puréed two quarts of berries and made a batch of plain, traditional strawberry jam. Nice and simple. 10 jars in total, but two are half-cups.

The last thing for tonight is a strawberry soup, which will be served with take-out chicken satay and pad thai. About a quart of berries with 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, 1 cup orange juice and a generous squirt of honey, blended into a thick soup. Thicker than a smoothie for sure. Served chilled, it's a nice meal on a hot day and a good counterpoint to spicy food.

Sunday, June 30, 2019


For a friend's birthday, I made a variation of what I was told was his favorite cake: Black Forest.

First I made a chocolate wacky cake in a bundt pan. My error here was not using parchment which, in retrospect, would have a been a good idea. The top of the cake stuck a bit; I reconstructed it as best I could. I ended up using it to my advantage later as it was a great way to pour cherry syrup into the cake.

Most of a pint of homemade maraschino cherries were put into the center of the bundt cake and the syrup was poured over the cake slowly so it all would be absorbed. When it was time to serve it, I made some fresh whipped chantilly cream and decorated the top with more cherries and dried rose petals.

The cake was super moist because of the cherry syrup. The kids voted it one of the best ever.

Happy Birthday!

In Between Storms

We've had a lot of thunderstorms come through here in the past two days, and whenever the sun has made an appearance I went to the mulberry tree in the yard to pick berries. I must have forgotten how many cups of juice went into a batch of jam. I thought it was eight. Actually, it was four. So after a few days I had just about eight cups of juice, enough for a double batch of jelly. The tree is rather prolific this year.

Normally I don't like to double up jam and jelly recipes because then, if the mixture is too deep for the diameter of the pot it might not gel. Eight cups didn't seem too huge, though, so I simmered the mulberry juice with 1/3 cup lime juice and sliced fresh ginger (about 1.5 inches of ginger root, sliced as thinly as I could manage without a mandolin). To this I added two boxes of powdered pectin and 9.5 cups of sugar. All told, it made just over 13 cups of jelly. I strained out the ginger pieces when I poured the jelly into jars. Most likely, I will enter this one in the fair. It's time to start thinking about that again!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Mixed Vegetable Kimchi

Some of the greens we get from the farm are greens we're not too excited to eat. Some go straight to our rabbit (looking at you, mustard greens). Some clearly want to be made into something more interesting. Like kimchi.

Usually once I get a Napa cabbage and some scallions I'll make a batch. I have to say that in the past I've been disappointed in my kimchi but I think it's because I use too much liquid and so it's soggy. I'm going to try to remedy that this time. Also, I had four different vegetables I could use in the batch, so I did:  Napa cabbage, bok choi, scallions and daikon radish. For proportions of the salt and water and the spices, I used the cabbage and radish kimchi recipe on page 182 of The Joy of Pickling.

These have been brining since yesterday and, after a quick purchase of fresh ginger, I mixed up the drained vegetables with minced ginger, Korean red pepper, salt and sugar. Now this will ferment in its brine for a few days. And then I plan to make sure I remove most of the extra liquid so my finished product isn't so disappointing. I guess we'll find out next week.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Summer Has Begun

And the farm share is really plentiful!

Today I picked up the share: Napa cabbage, collard greens, kale, garlic scapes, daikon radishes, bok choi, Hakurei turnips, scallions, 2 heads of lettuce, 2 kohlrabi, cilantro, parsley, 1/2 pint of strawberries, "unlimited" fava beans and snow and snap peas (I only took a quart of snap peas and some favas, I'm not crazy), 1 quart of shelling peas, and rainbow chard. Some was set aside for my friend's half, and then I got to work.

I chopped the Napa cabbage, bok choi, daikon radishes and scallions and they are currently brining. Tomorrow I'll start them fermenting to make kimchee.

With the cilantro (1 large bunch) and garlic scapes (20) I made a pesto using toasted pecans (1 cup) and parmesan cheese (1/2 cup, maybe?) with salt, pepper, and some cayenne for zip. For dinner we had a salad with fresh peas, strawberries, turnips and lettuce and then cheese ravioli tossed with this pesto and some blanched fresh peas. Now I have three half-cup jars of pesto to put in the freezer for another time.

The fava beans were blanched and peeled and are now in a jar with some salt water. I didn't want to marinate them because I'm hoping to use them to make baghali polo; I'll grab some dill next week so I can make it.

Also, I picked a whole lot of mulberries off my tree, simmered them with water and ran them through the jelly bag to start getting juice for a batch of mulberry jelly. The tree is covered with berries so I hope only 2 or 3 more picking sessions will be enough. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Pacific Northwest Inspiration

While we were in Portland we found a stall at the farmers' market selling morel mushrooms. These were fresh, huge, big as your hand, morels. I've never seen anything like them, nor quite so many in one place! This was the same stall at which I got the ramp salt. We didn't buy any morels, but it got me thinking they were in season.

Today I had some chicken breast slices (I buy them pre-trimmed sometimes, so really about 2 breasts but cut into 5 or 6 thin pieces) and I stopped by Whole Foods for morels, figuring they'd be in stock. They were, but they were tiny. Like, smaller than my pinky finger tiny. What a difference!

Using a couple recipes as a guide I made this up a little bit as I went along, but it worked out great:

 Chicken with Shallots and Morel Cream Sauce

thinly sliced chicken breasts
ramp salt, pepper
1/2 cup elderflower tonic water 
1/2 cup turkey stock
3 oz fresh morels, soaked briefly in 3/4 hot water
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup cream
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 tbsp lemon juice

Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and rinse the mushrooms briefly. Dredge the chicken in flour seasoned with the ramp salt and pepper. Sauté in oil until 150˚F in the center. Set aside in a warm oven. Add 1 T. butter to the pan, and then the shallots. Cook a few minutes until they are soft. Add the mushrooms and sauté briefly. Add the elderflower water and let it cook down, deglazing the pan. Add the stock and mushroom water, taking care not to pour the grit into the pan. Once this has cooked down, add the cream and herbs de Provence. Then add the lemon juice. Finally put the chicken back in the sauce, add any juices from the plate, and cook until the chicken is 165˚F. Serve over buttered egg noodles. 

Too bad I don't live in an area where they are plentiful in the spring or I might just get back into foraging for my own....

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Travel and Food

We just came back from a quick trip to visit colleges in California and Oregon. Since none of us had been to Oregon yet, we organized our trip so we could spend the weekend in Portland. It was a good weekend to be there because the famous Rose Garden was in bloom and there was a lot going on as part of the Rose Festival. We even went to see a Milk Carton Boat Race. There was a dairy ambassador and everything!

On Saturday morning we went to the Farmers' Market at the PSU campus. It was easily reached by the light rail which had a stop right next to our hotel. Aside from perhaps the largest artichokes I have ever seen, there was all sorts of local produce, prepared foods, and so on. One stand had a tremendous amount of morel mushrooms and also this:
Since I can never find ramps locally while I'm walking in the woods, I thought that bringing ramp salt home would be a good investment. The first thing I'm preparing with it are pasta and meatballs, with the ramp salt mixed into the meat. I'll bet it's great just sprinkled on grilled steak.