Monday, October 17, 2022

Missed It

We missed apple picking season again. 

That's two years in a row. I guess I keep hoping both the kids will be free on the same weekend and, while technically they were, one had Covid so we couldn't exactly go anywhere. I still have some applesauce from last year and when I run out I can just buy a bunch of apples and make more, but the outing was always part of the fun. Maybe next year we can plan that better.

What I have done recently is make a chocolate cream pie, something I have not made before. I followed the King Arthur recipe and it was fabulous. The pie did not last long! Much more successful than that red velvet cake, I might add. 

Today I am making chocolate chip cookies, using a recipe from the NY Times. Lately my toll house cookies have been very...thin. I'm not sure what has been happening but they come out very flat and yet still chewy. Weird. This recipe is fantastic. At least, they look good. We haven't tasted them yet. My new coworkers have been after me to make cookies, since they know I bake. So I'm bringing some in for them. The cool thing about this recipe is that you make the dough and refrigerate it for at least a day. The longer you let it sit, the better it is, apparently. Seems to work. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Fair in the Rain

We went up to the Fair two days ago, the weather was rainy but not super windy. It was the little bit of Hurricane Ian that reached New England, I guess. Generally, I prefer to be at the Fair in the rain because fewer people go so it doesn't feel as crowded. 

From the canning perspective, I won first place for sauerkraut and for tomato (pizza) sauce, and second place for the mulberry jelly, raspberry jam, and salsa verde. I didn't bake anything for the baking competition, but I did spend Friday baking a cake for the elderchild's birthday. More on that later.

One of the most fun parts for us is seeing the rabbits, and this year we spent some time watching the judging of some larger rabbits. There are these little stalls with wire doors that flip up so the rabbits are put in one side and the judge takes them out the other side and examines them. The rest of the rabbits, though, are all trying to get out of the stalls, and so every so often a rabbit's head pokes up above the stalls and a person has to hurry and push it back down before it jumps out. It's like whack-a-mole, but gently and with rabbits. It was so funny to watch!

After about four hours, we headed home, and I spent the rest of the afternoon frosting the cake I'd made and making chile rellenos for dinner.

Ah, the cake. The elderchild requested a red velvet cake like the one on this season's Great British Bake Off (the technical challenge). I looked up their recipe and, after making a run up to Saugus to get 6" cake pans which I discovered I needed right when I was about to start preparing the ingredients, followed the recipe to the letter. It SANK. I'm not sure why. So I cleaned up, went back out to the store to get more red food coloring and cocoa, and used a different recipe, which worked. And tasted really good, I might add. I did use the frosting from the GBBO recipe, which tasted great, but it was so runny. I had to put a skewer in the cake to keep it upright while I tried to frost it. There was a lot of cursing. 

Ultimately, the cake tasted fantastic, even if it was not as smoothly frosted as the ones on TV. 

Happy Birthday!


Sunday, September 18, 2022

Still Tomato Season

This week I was able to bring home another bag of plum tomatoes from the farm. It must have been about 12 pounds! Today I ran them through the food mill, yielding 16 cups of purée. Once it cooked down, I was able to can six pints of tomato sauce. Three pints have Persian spices and three pints are plain. It's a lot of work to get the purée and makes a big mess but it is worth it to have homemade tomato sauce. 

I miss the Jolly tomatoes the farm used to plant - these were nice to can whole since they were incredibly uniform in size. The closest I've seen lately were the weird hybrids mixed in with the Sungolds. When I went back this past week, they'd all split due to the recent rain and there weren't any good ones left. I wonder how many more weeks we'll get decent tomatoes before the weather catches up with us?

Friday, September 16, 2022

Spicy Gifts

For the past two weeks at the farm, the hot peppers have been in full swing. Since I could get 20 each time, I ended up with 40 Hungarian Hot Wax peppers to make hot sauce with. This is the recipe from my brother-in-law, which uses mustard, vinegar, sugar and hot peppers to make a spread. It's thickened with a flour and water mixture which, while not the preferred thickener for canning, works well as long as it's used quickly.

This batch made about 19 cups of the sauce, and I put 10 cups into 20 half-cup jars to add to my gift stash. I don't really know how many jars I need for the stash this year, but this gives the stash a significant boost. 

Sometime over the weekend, I'll take the next round of plum tomatoes and make more tomato sauce. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Tomato Sauce

Last week the farm share was still flush with tomatoes. I grabbed as many plum tomatoes as I could carry and let them ripen for a few days on the counter. Tonight I processed them through the food mill, getting 13 cups of purée which I then cooked down to 6 cups of sauce. Each pint has a sprig of basil, some lemon juice and salt. Maybe there will still be more this week? It's been warm enough and there were still plenty of green ones on the vines. Having a lot of tomato sauce around has been really handy. 

In the row of sungold cherry tomatoes, which I love, I found a single plant that appears to have been some sort of cross between a larger red tomato and sungolds. Or something. It might have been a random heirloom seedling that got mixed in. Anyway, these tomatoes were about 1.5 inches across, deep greenish-red, and flavorful. I made a tomato tart out of most of the ones I picked. Yum.

Thanks to the elderchild, I've been introduced to a YouTube series called Pasta Grannies. They're incredibly inspiring. I may have to start making more pasta by hand!

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Unlimited Tomatoes

This past week at the farm, we were instructed we could pick unlimited tomatoes. Turns out, the limiting factor was how much I could carry. Between the plum tomatoes I've frozen from prior weeks and the tomatoes I lugged across the field, I had enough purée to make a full batch of pizza sauce. 13 cups of purée, 1/2 cup lemon juice, spices (I used Ferla Spice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder) and time. I ended up with four 12-ounce jars and four 8-ounce jars. I followed the recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

After checking with the woman who runs the canning competition at the fair, I will enter this in the "Tomato Sauce" category, rather than the "Spaghetti Sauce" category. 

As of today, I have five things to enter. Last year I had four. The maximum a person can enter is ten classes (it used to be fifteen, I am not sure when that changed). I think I'm done, and can spend the next few days getting everything labeled correctly. They need to be dropped off on Saturday. 

If there are more tomatoes next week at the farm, I will try to get some to make a batch of regular tomato sauce, as I've been out of that for a while as well. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Disappointing

We've been picking raspberries at the local farm for years. In the past few years, they have taken out most of the raspberry bushes in favor of expanding to a more broad selection of crops and a farm stand. Which is fine, but that means fewer raspberries. Recently they've taken to limiting the amount of raspberries a group can pick. This morning three of us went, and we were only able to pick three pints.

What that means is I was unable to make raspberry jam without pectin and had just enough berries to make a batch of jam with pectin. There were no berries left over for snacking. I guess it'll have to do. 

Friday, September 2, 2022

End of Summer

School has started for the kids, and the farm share has gone into high production mode. Considering how dry it has been lately, it's surprising how much I brought home yesterday. Time to get canning!

Today I made five half-pint jars of salsa verde, with the intention of entering it in the fair. I think my proportions might have been a little off because it was fairly watery, so I strained out some of the liquid before canning it. Likely the tomatillos had more water in them than I was expecting.

I have many pounds of plum tomatoes to run through the food mill tomorrow, so I can make a large batch of pizza sauce. I am not sure I will enter pizza sauce in the fair partly because I don't know if it falls into the "tomato sauce" or "spaghetti sauce" categories, and partly because I'm not sure if I even want to sacrifice a jar because this is one of the things that gets used up quickly.

Monday, August 22, 2022

In Between

As in, I am in between jobs. After just under three years I left my most current position providing urgent care and will be starting a new job in a pediatric office, with better hours and fewer weekend shifts. (About the latter my family says, "It's about time!") It will take a little while to finish all the credentialing and get oriented, so that leaves me some time for canning. 

Today I checked the sauerkraut, and it was tasty, and the pH was <4, so it was ready. This time I hot packed it as I'm tired of cracking jars and losing product. The difference is that since the sauerkraut is already heated up, it takes less time in the canner to process. 10 minutes, instead of 20. Works for me.

The 7ish pounds of cabbage and 2 leeks made almost 6 pints of sauerkraut, once it was all packed down in jars. I even have enough that I will enter some in the fair. Maybe I can pull some more things together in the next few weeks to have a respectable entry. It would be weird to miss it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Maybe I Have More Energy?

It's been a long, slow summer. The heat hasn't helped. Not only has there been a drought impacting the farm share and the local PYO options, but it's also made me not very excited to stand next to a stove. Or really do much of anything!

But today, since our summer travel is over, I started a batch of sauerkraut. Last year's batch didn't ferment for as long as I thought it should, so I got rid of it. Just in case. From the farm, I had four heads of cabbage and two leeks, about seven pounds worth of produce. I sliced everything thinly and mixed it all with 4 T. of salt and packed it in my crock. Tomorrow I'll see if I have to add some brine, it may be necessary. After that, as long as I keep the water seal refreshed, it should do its thing with minimal fuss. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Mixed Bread and Butter Pickles

This week we have the farm share to ourselves, and there were almost enough cucumbers to make a half-batch of bread and butter pickles. But not quite. So I added one small, cucumber sized zucchini and that was perfect. With the onion and Hungarian hot wax peppers I also got at the farm today, I was able to make four half-pint jars of bread and butter pickles. Which is good, as I think we ran out about a month ago.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Peaches

Last week, we visited family in Ohio. As with the prior year's trip, my in-laws got two big boxes of peaches from the Georgia Peach Truck. I had ambitions to make pies, crisps, jam, and other peachy things. But chaos ensued, as it usually does. I couldn't find a rolling pin so rather than a pie I made one crisp. And one batch of jam. But since my in-laws weren't sure where the canning pot that I'm positive we bought on a prior trip ended up, I did the "flip the jars over" thing to seal them. It worked, and it won't take them long to work through the 5 and a half jars of jam I made for them. 

Because I didn't have huge amounts of time I intended to bring home enough peaches for another two batches of jam, thinking I could make some to enter in the fair (and seal in a boiling water canner, the preferred way). But the peaches got bruised, and even though we put them in a fridge at the B&B we stayed at en route, the next morning we discovered they were starting to rot. 

We managed to find 5 good ones which we left with our lovely hosts and they kindly threw out the rest for us. I felt badly that didn't work, but we still had a lot of time in the car to go and it was almost 100˚F outside and the trunk wasn't as cool as I'd hoped it would be. So they really wouldn't have made it the rest of the way. 

Speaking of the Fair, it's really snuck up on me. I'm not done with the shawl I'd hoped to enter. It turns out, you have to actually knit in order for knitted items to be completed. Who knew? But I haven't gotten to it in a while. I only have the mulberry jelly to enter, having missed strawberry season and not having any peach jam. I haven't even made any pickles as the farm share hasn't had as many as prior years. So between the lack of produce and my general lack of energy, I'm not sure I'll manage to get anything else made by the time I have to enter. 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Do Over

Yesterday's batch of mulberry jelly did not set. I think the pectin was old, which is a direct result of me not canning very much. It was my last box, so I'll be refreshing that supply soon.

In retrospect, there were a lot of "odd" things that should have tipped me off. First of all, there wasn't any foam after the hard boil. Then the jars took much longer to "ping" than usual. The jelly wasn't really setting on the spoon, either.

When I realized the jelly was runny, I put all the jars in the fridge overnight. This morning, I had gooey syrup. Not jelly. So I reprocessed them, using low-sugar pectin, more water and sugar, and a little lemon juice. All the correct signs were there to indicate that it worked this time. Oddly, I ended up with one less jar.

While I am sad that I wasted all those lids, I do think the Great Canning Lid Shortage of 2021 might be over. I found lids in the hardware store when I was buying jars, and they're no longer listed as out of stock on Amazon. I did buy a few boxes when I saw them yesterday, but I still have a lot of the Bernardin ones I got before. Because I haven't been canning much. Which, hopefully, will change.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Mulberry Jelly

After a few trips to the mulberry tree I had enough juice to make a batch of mulberry jelly, which I did this morning. I decided to put aside 2 jars for the fair, and the rest of the jelly is in 4-ounce jars so I can get started on that gift stash. While I was picking berries yesterday, a chipmunk sat in the branches and gave me its best angry face as it chittered away at me. It was adorable. 

This is the first batch of canning I've done in quite some time. It's not been a convenient year for picking berries yet. Our usual strawberry place had 2 days of picking, on weekdays, and then it was too cool for the berries to ripen so they didn't have any more. They do have cherry picking but, again, it hasn't really worked out that we can go as a family. I'm not sure what's going to come from the farm share in the next few weeks, I haven't seen any mention of strawberries from them, either. We still have so much jam from previous batches that I don't need to make much. I'll just have to keep an eye out for what's available. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Mulberry Tree Visitors

The mulberry tree in the backyard, which I can see from this desk, is laden with berries for another year. In just this morning alone it was visited by a pair of cardinals, a pair of orioles, blue jays, robins, chipmunks and squirrels. This afternoon I also paid a visit and was rewarded with a solid pint of berries (currently being made into juice) and the many angry chirps (cardinals) and squawks (blue jays) of indignant birds. I am surprised that the chipmunks would rather run up and down the branches instead of eating the mostly ripe berries that fall on the ground but I am not a chipmunk so apparently I just don't understand. 

It's unclear at the moment what I'll do with this juice, but maybe I'll make a batch of mulberry jelly to start the gift stash for the year. And also to enter in the fair.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Off to a Good Home

Today my beekeeping mentor stopped by to pick up my hive boxes and random gear. He keeps bees for one of the Audubon sites and will be able to use the boxes and frames. He even took the flow hive even though he's not a huge fan. They're definitely harder to get bees to use, so maybe the fact that I had some comb built in mine might help his bees find their way.

I must admit I have mixed feelings here. I enjoyed keeping the bees, and watching them work. I learned a lot about the natural world around me by doing so. I did not enjoy those times when I lost colonies, or got stung a lot (obviously). But there has been too much on my plate for a while and I needed to take a few things off. This is one of those things.

My backyard will still be a bee and bunny (and other wildlife) haven, hopefully the neighbors aren't too upset about that. I'm really leaning into the "No Mow May" movement. I seeded the patches in the grass in the backyard and covered everything with burlap and hay to hopefully get the yard growing well again. I did see a vole eat up a bunch of seed so hopefully the critters don't eat all of it before the grass sprouts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Picnic Lunch

Yesterday, on a whim, I made a pound cake, with zest from a blood orange. So I made a blood orange glaze, which came out rather pink, as blood orange juice looks like red wine. 

Today, on a whim, my husband and I are going on a bike ride. I haven't been on my bike for about a year, certainly not since I got my knee brace last summer. I am not very daring when it comes to bikes and, after a series of pretty impressive bike accidents as a kid, I don't like riding in traffic. I will suffer through traffic to get to the bike path and that's where we're headed today. With a picnic lunch. Which includes pound cake. 


Thursday, March 31, 2022

For The Record

The tin of mustache wax I made for my husband lasted almost exactly two years.

Today's batch was identical except for two things - I added bergamot essential oil with the myrrh and I played with the amount of jojoba oil because I'd had to add some after the fact the last time. 1.5 ounces of beeswax, 0.7 ounces jojoba oil, plus about 8 drops of bergamot and 3 drops of myrrh. 

Also, for the record, his pandemic-stache is a thing of beauty. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Nouruz Birthday Combo

Nouruz, the Persian New Year, is celebrated on the first day of spring. It's not often I do something special for it, but my husband's birthday falls around then as well. After wondering what to do for his birthday cake, and getting a little inspiration from the kids, I decided to pull out the stops and have a Persian-themed meal and dessert.

For the meal, I made a version of Khoresh Ghormeh Sabzi: lamb stew with greens. And beans, but I left those out. My recipe uses dill and cilantro, and is one of two similar recipes I found written on scraps of paper in my first cookbook binder from when I learned to cook in college. Apparently, prior to this week I'd made it exactly once. I generally go to the tomato based basic Khoresh which does not have the greens. I also made boorani (spinach and turmeric with sour cream or yogurt), and Zereshk Polo, rice with barberries that have been slightly candied with saffron. For the first time, I tried to make tadiq with bread rather than rice or potatoes, it didn't come out well at all, so apparently that's a thing I need to work on. 

Dessert was a baklava cheesecake. I used a honey cheesecake recipe which is literally just cream cheese, honey and eggs, and made a crust of two layers of baklava in the springform pan. After pouring in the cheesecake, I put another two layers of baklava on the top, and baked it at 325˚ for 30 minutes and 350˚ for 35 minutes. Likely it could have used another 15-20 minutes as it was a little soft in the middle. When the cheesecake came out of the oven I immediately poured rosewater syrup on it and decorated it with more of the sugar and almond mixture and then some dried rose petals.

We've spent most of the week working through the leftovers. I'm not sure why, but many Persian dishes taste even better the second day. These were no exception!

Cheesecake and baklava layers, mmm

Friday, March 18, 2022

I Didn't Forget

Pi day was last Monday. I did not forget! 

Having generally been frustrated with my usual pie crusts, I decided to make a lemon meringue pie with a pate sucrée crust. This is more common in tarts, but the sweetness of the crust offsets the tartness of the lemon filling and it worked well.

Per usual, I made two pies, as the elderchild in college also needed a pie. (Note to self: 1/4 of the master pate sucrée recipe and 1-1/3 of the lemon filling recipe in the Pilsbury cookbook made one 9" pie and one 8" pie. 1 full meringue recipe.)

Plus, it gave me an opportunity to use the blowtorch. My favorite part!

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Post-Mortem on a Hobby

Cybeele and her colony did not survive the winter. 

It's over 60 degrees today, and I went to see if there was any activity at the hive, as there should be when the temperature is this warm. Nothing. So I opened it up. Dead bees everywhere.

I took the hive apart, and I think there might have been moisture. There was so much honey. But there was almost no brood and there was mold, which generally grows after the colony has weakened or died. I plan to contact my mentor and get some insight, perhaps. 

Meanwhile, I am extracting what honey I can. After all, there aren't any bees to use it so I may as well harvest it. Of the four flow frames, only one had any honey in it, it wasn't much, and it's not working as intended so I don't know if I'll ever get it out.

What I do know is that I think this is the last attempt for me. I started keeping bees in 2015, and successfully overwintered some, but not all, of my colonies. Perhaps if I was doing this on a larger scale it wouldn't have such an impact when I lose a colony, but since I can't do that where I am, it's a significant setback each time. I'm frustrated and I think it's time to let go.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Raspberry Cheesecake

I have a rare weekend off and had some time, so I made a cheesecake. This time, I took some of the batter and mixed it with raspberry purée and then swirled it back in. What I need to remember is that it needs a little more time in the oven and that my notes are correct - in other words, don't second guess what I've already written!
I also made a raspberry coulis

Friday, January 7, 2022

Ducken

Our holidays didn't quite go as planned, but because we had more time than expected we were able to roast the last of the ducks we'd stored in the freezer. Not only was I able to render about three cups of fat, I saved the bones to make stock. Yesterday I combined the duck bones with the bones of a couple of chickens to make ducken stock. 

Today I made soup first, with all the meat, a gallon of stock, leeks, carrots, barley and spinach. Unless we can't get through it in the next few days, I won't be canning it. However, I had nine pints of stock left over which I canned. 

One jar broke, unfortunately, but I still have eight pints of ducken stock canned which is good because I seem to be perpetually running out of stock.