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!