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


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.