Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Joys of Small Batch Jamming/Burning

Today I am forgetting that I have twenty plus pounds of tomatoes to process.
I have 6 large white nectarines chopped and tucked away in a pot with a cup of meyer lemon juice and about two cups of sugar. Bubbling away. It smells heavenly. It won't make very much, but that's not the point. I wanted something simple and lovely this week after last week's major haul. I also have 8 green pluots that will become...something.

And....I burnt it.
Well, I'm not going to process it, but it's still edible...just a bit more caramelly than I'd prefer. it's going to be shoved into to jars of yogurt and hidden under giant globs of peanut butter. Or thrown out in a couple weeks. Meh. That's what I get for a watching a Simon Pegg marathon instead of paying attention to my cooking.
The pluots will be different. But I think I'll add meyer lemon juice to them too, so something lemony turns out right.

Monday, September 12, 2011


This has been a long weekend for canning.
But first, the photos of the tart that I made for my tea party!

Oatmeal shortbread crust, ganache, mascarpone cream, and balsamic strawberries. 

Very very yummy
This will be mostly just a huge list of photos but I will try to explain.
Friday night I picked three pints of green figs from the orchard behind my house and half candied them. I mean half because real candied figs are shelf stable, but I canned mine in the leftover syrup because I did not want to wait three days to cook them again.
Figs, brown sugar, lemon juice

Finished figs ready for a snobby cheese night

The next morning I picked up the motherlode of all farmer's market's reapings.
Plums, apples, peppers, quince, onions, concord grapes, seckel pears, tomatoes
I picked up two "lugs" of San Marzano tomatoes, one for my cousin and one for me. I first put up 20 more ears of corn.
Then tried again with pickle spears
Using a recipe from Put Em UP!
Then on Sunday, pressure canned baked beans!
Soaked 3lbs pink and ying yang beans overnight then cooked them for 1 1/2 hours

made a sauce of the cooking liquid, 1 1/3 cup molasses, 1 1/2 large red onion, 1T  salt, 1T ground mustard, 1t black pepper

Then the tomatoes
Mmmm San Marzano tomatoes

cooking it down!

couldn't quite fit the whole "lug" of tomatoes into the pot

cooked down to four pints, unseasoned
Then today I just finished a batch of apple salsa
Then put up a quart of honeyed Seckel pears and two pints of honeyed prune plums.
Shoulda pricked the plums...they split their skins
 I still have the grapes and the quince to deal with, but for now...I'm exhausted.

I'll talk more about it next week, but my mother was wonderful to send me three new canning books which makes my cache of information quite large!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

First Long Weekend!

Alright, I survived my first week of long shifts and made it to the best part of the week, my first long weekend!
I've decided that this weekend needs to be about rejuvenation and taking it of course I plan on canning corn and making a puppet and's just going to be like any other weekend just with an extra day to procrastinate.  

My farmer's trip this week was plentiful and I wanted to reflect that in my Sat. food choices so for lunch I whipped this up.

Corn/Tomato Saute

Two ears worth of cut corn
Two big sungold tomatoes
7 leaves of fresh basil, rolled and sliced i.e. chiffonade
One large clove of garlic, pressed or microplaned
 2 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute until most of the liquid is cooked out. Serve over pasta.
Good additions would be a red pepper or a pablano pepper, pattypan squash, maybe a protein like chunks of chicken or tofu...there's lots you can add to this dish.

I like it just as is, the sweetness of the corn with the sweetness of the sungold tomato, cut by the garlic and pepper really appeals to me.

I am revamping Helmsley. It seems like a huge waste to just toss that finished mouthplate, slightly crooked or no. I ripped all his features and his skin too (how sick does that sound?) and cut down his head and added fur instead of skin.

 I changed his eyeballs and attached his shirt. I used a hair tie to mark his iris and a nerf dart to mark his pupils. I may leave it that way or I may paint in some more, I kinda like the crazed look it gives him and once he has eyelids it may be better that way anyway.

Mary Beth, the before seen armless little girl puppet, has arms now and is performing hip hop numbers for her webcam. I still need to fortify her rods but for simple purposes, she's done too.

This afternoon I canned corn. Corn is a low acid food which means it has to be pressure canned to be safe to eat. That means I borrowed my cousin's pressure canner.
I bought twenty five ears of corn from the farmer's market and cut the kernels off using a nifty little tool my mom found at a garage sale.

I filled hot jars with the corn and 1/4 tsp. salt each and packed them down a bit and added boiling water, running a chopstick around the jar to release air bubbles leaving an 3/4ths of an inch headspace and screwed the lids on. Following the pressure canner's instructions I then added two quarts of water to the canner, and added the jars (this canner held 8 pints) and screwed the lid on and let it boil. Once the valve steams, time it for ten minutes then add the gauge (in my case a ten pound gauge) and wait for it to rock and his vigorously. This scared my poor cats senseless. Turn the heat down til it rocks and hisses gently...this has yet to work for me, it still hisses loudly and rocks around intermittently no matter what the heat. Pints are processed for 55 minutes then turn off the heat and let the canner cool on it's own time, don't try and speed the process along, as it could be holding a lot of pent up steam and blow the lid up on ya!

So there you have it, that's corn. It was my favorite canned item last year so I had to make sure I made more this year. the twenty five ears were more than enough for the eight pints so I froze the remainder, I may can another round next week.

To end my Saturday, I decided to dehydrate watermelon! Well, my cousin offered me one they had received and I have been wanting to try it out. I cut the watermelon to 1/4th inch (approximately, I was a little thick on a few) and skipped de-seeding the slices as that would take me all night and leave me with watermelon mush, laid them out on the dehydrator and I'll find out tomorrow how they turned out!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Shift And New Problems

So I work the night shift, right? Ten to six a.m. and I've been on that shift for two years straight. Starting tonight however, I work four shifts of midnight to ten a.m....I'm not very happy. Sure I get the days off I want, plus an extra day for working ten hour shifts, but is it going to be worth it? I'll most likely spend the first day off simply sleeping.

Enough whining.
This weekend has been another backbreaker. I have worked on so many projects I'm seeing fuzzy.
I am sending a friend who has just moved for grad school a care package, so I whipped up my favorite cookies, Chocolate Espresso Cookies.
They are officially my favorites 
I whipped up some bread.

I canned a dozen teeny jars of Concord Grape Jelly. Would've gone over the process, but I blanked on taking pictures! Next time time.

Worked on the quilt for my guest bed.
Would've finished the top but...
It's not wide enough...ARG!
Which means another forty bucks for more fabric...sigh. But it looks cool, huh?

I've also sewn up the curtains for the art room, and some decorative pillow cases but I didn't bother with the pictures until I have them put up.
I have also prepped my kitchen/dining room for a tea party I am having on Tuesday. I will be serving a strawberry tart with mascarpone cream, ganache and an oatmeal shortbread crust. Should be delicious.

This week I really have no idea what to do...I guess I could finish up the napkins (which I also worked on this week), and maybe work on building a skirt...but due to my new working arrangement, it's all going to be hit and miss.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The week's exploits

I'm running wild this week. So many projects I want to start and so many plans I want to make. This is the time known as the upswing. I. Go. Crazy.
I started out by planning a few things to work on this week, napkins and art room curtains. Good, reasonable goal, yes? Cut out the curtains, gotta wait to sew them up as I can no longer do loud projects at work (Boo). Bought the white linen for the eight napkins (White linen napkins! How snotty am I?) and cut them out,

sewed a few by hand, next week I'll finish them and add embroidery. Plenty to do, that's been a lot more than I have accomplished in quite some time.
Mid week however, I find a Craiglist jackpot. A full size mattress, bed springs, headboard/footboard frame all for 25 bucks! WHAT?! Yes please. The deal also optioned a nightstand for another 10 bucks and I picked that up for my cousin. Felt like Hewoman for hauling it all myself.

Today I just couldn't let it sit any longer and I got to work on the head board. Picked up 2 inch high density foam and used the velvet upholstery fabric I had left over from the chair I redid. Attacked it all with a staple gun and voila! A lovely headboard that's a little lumpy, yes, but it'll grow into it's shape.

Finished hanging things in the guest room, tidied it up as best I could with my vacuum being broken and all, and there we have it! My cats haven't left it alone since I put sheets and such on the bed. Of course.
So...I have no idea what to do with myself for the rest of the weekend...stay tuned...we'll find out together.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weddings and cake

This past week I built a wedding cake. Yup. A whole wedding cake.
Ok, so technically it was not my first wedding cake, but...hell, she won't read this, it was the first cake I really cared about. Ok, I cared about the last wedding cake, but when all you're given to work with is cake doesn't make much of an emotional impact. Plus, this cake had to be perfect as it was for one of the most important people in my life. There. Did that make any sense? Most likely not.

 I started the day before the wedding, which might have been my first mistake. An extra afternoon might have taken a little of the pressure off, but it also might have messed up the rhythm I had going, not to mention left two days worth of mess for the Bride's dad and step-mom to deal with. So...maybe a problem? Maybe not.
I arrived just before eight in the morning armed with all my gear, including the pans my mom shipped up and the flour I specially ordered.  I had ordered cake flour from along with almond extract, because I hate the one brand of cake flour I know all the grocery stores carry.

I used Emeril Lagasse's recipe, found here: for the sponge cake, replacing the vanilla with almond extract. The recipe calls for making it twice for a three tiered cake, however, I found that the layers were far too thin and was forced to make three batches just for the stacked cakes. Here's where the extra time would've helped, I needed to use those ingredients and that time to make a second layer to the sheet cake. The recipe itself was a fair pain in the tuchus, as every ingredient had to be weighed not measured as usual. It made for a more accurate and regulated batter, but took a great length of time.

The batter was then divided into six bowls and Wilton gel coloring was used, splitting the pots of gel between the four batches I made. I then spooned one color of batter into the pan, then another spoonful of another directly on top of it and so on until all the colors were used. Shake the pan if the batter hasn't spread out to the edges, being careful not to stir the batter up.

The pans I used were a 6 inch, a 8 inch, and a 10 inch. I think a set of 6, 9 and 12 would have looked more dramatic, but hindsight being what it is and all...

Follow instructions on the recipe as to baking and let cool completely on wire racks.

The frosting I found here: and it was fantastic. I have never cooked a frosting before and it was far more interesting than the frosting I normally make. And far more buttery. Wow was it buttery. It spread really well and looked very nice.

I then inserted four straws into the bottom two layers and cut them off a scant 1/8th inch above the cake so the next layer had a stable way to sit.
I managed to deliver the cake to the reception hall without any accidents and the next day I assembled the cakes without fuss. I only wish I had a small pot of frosting to touch up the edges.
For decoration I had made little paper poppies but they would've soaked up the butter from the frosting and looked horrible. The bows I bought only worked for the sheet cake. I replaced the paper poppies with some that I had purchased.

I think I'm just rambling now...

Anyway, it fed everyone despite it's diminutive appearance, there was even a great deal left over!
I think it turned out very well, people seemed to like it.
So there we have it! Nine and a half hours to complete and my second foray into wedding cakes seems to be a success.

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's been a long long, long time

I feel it would be boring if I told you all I have been up to while not blogging, so I'll just apologize and get on with the post.
I have not taken advantage of the strawberries like I had hoped. True, I have a week or two left hopefully to get my act together and jam some more, but nothing like I had planned.
I did, however, make some very tasty strawberry and kumquat jam a month ago which I'll share today. I used a three pint cartons of strawberries and a cup and a half of sliced kumquats

I mixed the kumquats and sliced strawberries with 7 cups of sugar and cooked it down for a bit then added a box of pectin (which I normally won't do but I wanted a bright strawberry taste). Next time I will cook it longer as the juice from the kumquats upset the balance between juice and pectin and it's a little too soft and as you can see above, it's a little foamy.

Last night I made a batch of Blackberry and Brown Sugar jam on the fly, due to the fact that a soon to be groom likes to eat it with a spoon and I wanted to get him something special.
The jam is a little harder to quantify, I had a heaping bowl full, maybe...10 cups of berries? 4 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup turbinado sugar and a lemon. I just cooked the berries and sugar down till it sheeted off a spoon and added the lemon juice. It made 3 pints of spectacular jam. My lovely cousin had given me a homemade loaf of bread that day and it has swiftly disappeared along with a half pint of the jam.

Speaking of grooms (see my poor transition there?) I am leaving this Saturday for Minot to go to a wedding! A fantastic wedding too, it's my darling friend's hitchin' to her man and I'm in charge of the cake!
So I will blog about the making of said cake as soon as I get back!
And expect a few blogs on corn canning and tomatoes and hopefully some white peaches in brown sugar!
Love, Me