Showing posts from December, 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 …