Showing posts from 2011

2011, production efforts continued.

I hate to pick favorites from the activities I do, but canning definitely won this year because it's hard to beat delicious food and kitchen romance. Doesn't mean I entirely gave up my other endeavors... it's just that I wasn't quite as good.

Beer happened, and then I stopped for good reason.
There was that ginger beer homebrew turned bomb... (drank about 10 bottles, 20 down the drain)Followed by an unpalatable home-brewed wormwood ale, bitter beyond reason. (30 bottles down the drain)  So I thought knitting might be better. You be the judge.
Lace sock failure (nothing gained. I tore these apart)Rainbow striped knee-high socks, nearly lost into Lake Union (gifted)The 18 month pair of socks, because I just couldn't motivate. (gifted)I seamed the toes for my own socks, my first attempt with dpn's. Finally! 3 years in the making.  The Mariner Sweater, 1/4 finished and abandoned forever. Losing 30 pounds made this project entirely over sized for me and I am determine…

2011, a Year of Preservation.

Last January I made a plan to be more productive, a celebration and cultivation of my skills. Many of the goals slipped away as time passed and production stopped altogether for a few months while I sorted through some life changes and worked out of state for a month, but as life does, it all worked out. I dreamed a lofty goal of canning 12 batches of something or other... and with help from lovers, friends and family I put up 28 different varieties of preserves. To round it out to an even thirty I've included two batches where I only assisted with some of the preparation and not actual preservation. It's a technicality, really. I made a serious sacrifice by eating 10 pounds of watermelon in three days just so my boyfriend could make his grandma's watermelon rind pickles. I swear, there is no history of watermelon obsession in my lineage and I didn't enjoy a second of it. Promise!

 So here it is in mostly chronological order.
Chile Mandarin Marmalade with Ginger (7 half …

Knitting: Christmas Man Socks

At some point last year I realized Christmas would be infinitely better with hand knitted socks on the mantel, rather than some bright and annual oversized stocking that carried little meaning. I've always felt a little love goes a long way when tucked into the process of creation and given to someone special., and in the holiday season I find most of my happiness is directly tied to the happiness of others, it's the joy of gift giving, the fun of making treats, the pleasure of eating a delicious duck and potatoes roasted in its fat (arteries so clogged now, help me).

And so the chance arrived when I stayed in Seattle for the holidays this year and let go of tradition a bit.

These socks knitted up so quickly that I felt inspired to just keep knitting, more and more and more. Turns out I love knitting socks with sport-weight yarn because it moves infinitely faster than typical sock yarn-- the first sock was finished in 2 days!

Cascade 220 sport, 1.75 skeins of yarn, knitted on s…

Canning: Yellow Tomato Preserves

From the same plants that provided a bounty of under-ripe fruit for pickled green tomatoes came delicious yellow pear tomatoes, a tiny variety of bell-shaped fruits that were ripe and ready to be used. Pulling a recipe from page 198 of the Farm Journal Freezing & Canning Cookbook: Prized Recipes from the Farms of America, Revised Edition, I jumped into action with the recipe for tomato preserves.
Simmer the tomatoes, lemon, water and sugar for a long time and then strain the goods through a mesh sieve to remove tomato skins. This seemed like an easier approach than blanching and peeling each tiny tomato, and since I qaudrupled the recipe to 4 pounds of tomatoes... well, I took it easy. I added back in the slices of lemon for the maximum effect of the pectin, processed a bit longer, and then hot-packed and water bath canned the entire batch.
Total: 4 pounds of tomatoes + 1 whole lemon. = 10 half pint jars

PS. Mom says it's delicious as a glaze for chicken and fish. Also, why doe…

Canning: Dilly Beans!

Feed me pickled green beans (with a meal of bloody marys) and you'll be my best friend.

Using a recipe from Blue Ribbon Preserves: Secrets to Award-Winning Jams, Jellies, Marmalades and More on page 169, dilled green beans, I tried a new method of processing that calls for longer water-bath processing at a slightly lower temperature. The idea is that keeping the temperature between 180 and 185 fareinheit and processing for 30 minutes, rather than processing 10-15 min at a full boil, would preserve some of the crunch in the blanched green beans and give a better, firmer pickle.
 But, that wasn't the case for me-- the crunch is not there though the flavor is perfect. Next time I'd try a raw pack recipe from some other book to experiment with which processing style I prefer. Total: 2 quarts and 5 pints (plus one jar whose glass bottom cracked during processing, effectively dumping a pint of beans into the pot when I was lifting it out).

Canning: Whole Figs in Citrus Syrup

Back on July 17th I kicked off the canning season with a bang, putting up blueberry lime jam-turned-syrup, honey lemon lavender jelly, and preserved figs all on one eventful Sunday. The figs happened first and the recipe came from my friend's copy of The Art of Preserving (Williams-Sonoma)-- luckily for any of you interested in trying it yourself but not buying the book, they've also posted this recipe on their website! Keeping it simple, we've got sugar and citrus (both lemon and orange) and thus figs floating in delicious syrup. Total: 4 half pints and 4 quarter pints) + a half pint of syrup
PS.Getting honest. I've got so much stuff that I've only tried about half of my preserves this year. What with the proper aging of pickles and my self-imposed regulation on bread (and thus jam), I'm making slow progress. Fear not! I've loved every little bit I've eaten so far, especially the pickles. If you care to help me with the consumption of the goods conside…

Canning: Onion Marmalade

I love onions. The crunch and bite of them raw, the smooth caramelized sugars when cooked slowly, and the black bits of roasted chunks. Serve them any way and I will most likely eat them.

Mid-summer seemed a good time for canning with my beau as we got to know each other so the same day fennel found its way into our bags, bright purple onions beckoned from a stand and went home with us too for a day full of fun. Bonding over a lovely canning book (he owns the UK original, I'm all-American with the later version), we pulled a recipe from page 117 of The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. Onion Marmalade. 5 half pints.

 *Note: If you make adjustments to your recipe to accommodate the amount of produce you have, be sure the less attentive cook has supervision and adds the correct ingredient measurements to the pot. Ours is extra-jammy because of this little mistake. Silly me. I'm always having too much fun in the kitchen...

Canning: Pickled Florence Fennel

That's it. If I'm going to document my year's canning endeavors before the year's end... well, there's no messing around.

The River Cottage Preserves Handbook + A Farmers' Market Date + Time in the kitchen
Pickled Florence Fennel! An easy spring/summer pickle when fennel flows freely from farmers. Total 6 half pints from the River Cottage recipe on page 97, doubled.

Canning Plain Ole Tomatoes

I'm curious, what's your most commonly used canned food? Whether home-canned or store-bought, fresh or preserved, I find that tomatoes sustain me year round. In cooking I frequently crack open a jar or find the can opener, using one my favorite garden delights as a base for soups, stews, pasta, curries, sauces, etc and often finding myself in a pinch when I run out unexpectedly.

My awesome brother and sister-in-law nearly grew more tomatoes than they could use and shocked us by dropping off at least 3 or 4 bushel for canning endeavors in October. So lucky! I played a late game of tomatoes well into the night to get my bunch put up in time, deciding that pints are better than quarts when cooking for one or two people. When I used the last quarts this year I found I'd throw a 1/3 of the jar in the fridge for later use... but forgotten it would rot and mold and I'd be sad about the waste.

Blanched, peeled, cored, and cut up the tomatoes. Recipe from Cut Up Plain Tomatoes …

Canning: Pickled Green Tomatoes.

Utah is special to me and my mom's garden in Utah even more special, so when I saw the pear tomato plants hanging heavy with unused fruit back in my October visit I jumped into action. I though surely that itty bitty tomatoes, yellow pear-shaped things would be too dainty and cute to be canned-- not true! The 8 pounds of pear tomatoes turned into a lovely lemon tomato jam and an experiment of pickled proportions tried on the unripe green tomatoes. Pickles and Relishesprovided a recipe on page 106 and soon the Thanksgiving Pickles were born. 1 quart and 4 pints. Being a refrigerator pickle, the process was easy. Wash your cherry tomatoes (or other small varieties). Put them in jars with hot brine, spices, herbs and salt. Throw those babies in the refrigerator and wait 6 weeks for a tart pop of summer in your mouth, celebrating the glow of ripe fruit with Thanksgiving dinner. I'm not sure how to describe them, it's an interesting flavor. A sharp pickle, somewhat dry, and very…

Full of thanks.

Much gratitude.
Relationships. With my family, friends, beau, coworkers, roommate. I feel lucky to have people in my life that share their personal knowledge, empathy, wit, compassion, generosity, patience and values-- being surrounded by good, kind people is important to me.Stability. Some days I feel poor, trapped, stricken with some discontent malaise... and then I see that it's not terrible to have a home, income, routine. I'm still unsure if this is the right routine for me but I've been afforded benefits in this position of life that were previously beyond my reach. Frivolity was/is fun for a time... but eating well and going to the doctor when I want is nice too. Health and sanity. Crucial.Life's pleasures. Dancing. Spinning. Knitting. Food. Conversation. Inspiration. Cat companionship. Kitchen kisses. Social activities. Music. Long hot soaks in the clawfoot bathtub. Access to education (to some extent). Extended family. The beauty of my surroundings/the great ou…

Canning Mom's Pickled Beets

Pickled beets represent nearly 24 years worth of Sunday dinners to me. With a pot roast and vegetables on the table, or a shepherd's pie and hot rolls, pickled beets made a weekly appearance on that special day when the entire family gathered together. I'd drive home from college nearly every Sunday, and even as my older brother and sister-in-law had their own kids they still came over most Sundays. I miss that tradition and am glad it still happens even though I can't make it home in a quick drive. These beets are represent all that is holy in canned food at mom's house, and were likely the first thing I ever helped with. What kid doesn't want to peel beets and pretend to have bloody hands?

Mom would chop the larger beets into smaller pieces and save the small beets all to be packed into a few special jars to be opened when company visits. I love the traditions of food and family. Below is the recipe my mom shared with me on that handwritten card in her scrolling…

Spinning Polwarth (sheep's wool)

The more I spin, the more I find myself loving sheep's wool above all else. Yes, yak down, camel, and silk are all luscious fibers but the broad range of breeds makes sheep the most appealing fiber animal to me-- their fiber can be durable, cozy, soft, coarse, strong, fine, springy, etc. According to the The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebooka newly published compendium detailing the characteristics of over 200 animal fibers and the yarns they produce, Polwarth are considered a conservation breed, developed by crossing Merino & Lincoln, with staple length (the locks of their hair) of 3-7 inches and well-defined crimp.
This wool was given to me as an assignment for a spinning class, roughly four ounces of combed top for spinning into yarn. I spun the singles and 2-plied on my Ashford Traditional spinning wheel on the largest whorl (ratio 6.5:1). This was such a delight to spin that it slipped quickly through my hands and in a matter of a couple days it was complete. The resulting yar…

Spinning Jacob Sheep's Wool

Wool = happiness.

Many months back I sauntered on down to the Puyallup fair grounds for the Shepherd's Extravaganza, a part of the Spring Fair that celebrates wooly goodness. It may have been a tad less exciting than monster trucks and demolition derbies but it paired well with the mutton bustin' we saw. Judges rated the best fleeces and awarded corresponding ribbons, vendors sold prepared fiber and yarn of various sorts, and I ate fair food and spent my money on sheepish delights...

... such as this beautiful roving of all black jacob sheep's wool. Above you can see the wool in three different states: prepared fiber (roving in this instance), handspun singles on a bobbin from my spinning wheel, and the two-ply end product. And another view:

I've been practicing my ability to spin worsted or woolen yarns, and I'd call this a semi- worsted. The fiber is much softer than I expected from this sheep and I'm glad to be supporting the livelihood of a rare breed. Long …

Knitting: Mock Cable Socks for Men

The intrinsic reward of giving something handmade is apparently great enough to convince me to knit man socks ;). Using a pattern from the book Getting Started Knitting Socks (my go-to sock bible that taught the very basic steps in sock knitting, and walked me through my very first pair a few years ago), I measured his feet so they'd be custom fit and jumped right into the Right Twist Cable Rib Socks, aka Mock Cable Man Socks on Ravelry.
11 inches of foot length translates into many, many hours of knitting and luckily I enjoyed this pattern. Big socks aren't easy to do, and this pattern was the right choice for the project-- easy to memorize, simple to set aside and pick up again. The yarn is Spud & Chloe Fine, an 80% superwash wool and 20% silk blend. The socks felt somewhat rough during the knitting process but after washing and blocking they've softened right up. Speaking of which, this yarn is the way to go for someone who doesn't want to be committed to hand-w…

Canning: Roasted Tomato Passata

Tomatoes are one of the quintessential canned foods in my life, lined up nicely in the pantry with jars of peaches, pickles and green beans. The luscious red fruits are eye candy when they make first appearances at the farmers market, beckoning to be purchased and sliced, served fresh on toast with bacon and tender greens. Always seeming too soon, winter rushes tomatoes from the vine and into glass jars for soups, stews and sauces to carry us through the cold. I crave tomatoes year round and seeing the fruit stands in Willard lined with the end-of-season tomatoes gave way to passata.
The River Cottage Preserves Handbookwill make your mouth water with the savory photo on page 165 of the American edition, a picture of roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs calling to become your dinner. I knew this recipe would find its way into my larder the first time I flipped through the book. Here is my ode, plus the view of a quadruple batch (one sheet was one batch according to the recipe amo…

Canning: Honey Lemon Lavender Jelly

Once upon a time I met the new guy in the office and we connected over our shared interests in food and farmstuffs, so I invited him over to put up a batch of preserves together. You might laugh that my first date with someone would be over a day of canning but I feel it's quite appropriate. :)

Honey Lemon Lavender Jelly was an easy recipe I found online after a little google search provided me with ideas to use fresh lavender. The Seattle Interbay P-Patch holds an annual sale of their lavender and I'm lucky to be within close distance, so it was easy to swing by the Ballard Farmer's market for honey and buy the sweet-smelling herb on the way home.

We used liquid pectin and it jelled nicely, though we didn't bother to strain. Also, I would recommend letting the lavender tea steep as long as possible (overnight would be good) to get the maximum flavor; mine is a little weak on the herb, a little strong on the lemon. Still very, very tasty. We doubled the recipe and en…

Canning: Blueberry Lime Syrup/Jam {giveaway}

In canning there are two possible outcomes: Good or not quite so good. Ever an optimist, I do understand there can be bad outcomes (i.e. broken jars or botulism) but the reality is 100% of my canning experiences have been educational, rewarding, tasty and productive, if not exactly right. Sometimes things just don't turn out as planned, even with a tested recipe and the best intentions and that's okay.

Such as my Blueberry Lime Jam. No. Blueberry Lime Syrup. Well, maybe it's a sauce.

One of the ladies in my knitting group was eager to get canning experience under her belt and I was eager to jump back into action after a few months off in the late spring, so we settled on two different batches in one day. We doubled this batch (against all jam/jelly recommendations) and had fun with it, taunting her children with the goodness of the fruits we were putting up. Alas, no set was achieved in the end.

Truth is, this jam has too much sugar for my taste to keep all 5 jars so I'…

Canning Peaches in Light Syrup

As autumn's warmth turns cool and harvest is over, winter begins to make its first appearances in my hometown of northern Utah. Dry grass and leaves crunch underfoot with the first frosts and I remember the air being chilled and my breath visible when I waited for the bus as a child. These are the memories of seasons gone-by, as the glowing leaves are replaced by glowing fire; as night games in golden fields populated by straw bales are exchanged for cups of hot cocoa, novels, and snowsuits.

In my heart there exists a fondness for the days my mom would send us out to romp in the snow. She encouraged us to get out, to play king of the mountain atop the massive mounds of snow from clearing neighborhood driveways. My older brother and I (plus the neighbors, cousins, and later my younger siblings) would make snow tunnels on the north side of the house, build snowmen, and scream with delight while sledding downhill in the pasture, always afraid we'd glide too far or fast and land …