Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Purple Hands

I bought 18 lbs. of local Concord grapes for $15 - I was asking for a half-bushel and this is the amount the farmer prepared for me.  I need to record how I processed them.

I made filling for two grape pies, following the recipe in Mennonite Community Cookbook.  I cooked the filling until thick, and I will freeze it.  My friend Jonel tipped me off to cook the filling again when it thaws, and then to cool it before pouring it in the pie shell.  There are two grape pies in my winter, and I am so excited for them!

Then I put the rest of the grapes in the top of the nifty steamer that Rebecca loaned me.  Water goes in the bottom, grapes go in the top, and they steam into juice in the middle that I siphon into jars.  I add a little water and 1 Tbsp. sugar to each jar.  Boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Finally, I made spiced grape butter from the stuff left from the juice.  Three pints of that, canned in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

And stained purple hands to show from all this.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thrift at Camp

We went camping with our dear friends, the second annual tradition, and we're going to keep it going.   I'm even starting to feel a little bit competent at camping because every year I keep notes and try to refine my method.  This year, I discovered that if I started prepping a full week before we left to camp, I did not feel overwhelmed!  And I also realized that I strongly prefer to prep food in my own kitchen which is luxurious and beautifully outfitted compared to the rudimentary camp kitchen I set up.  So yes, I chopped all my veggies ahead of time and planned carefully to do as little fussing with food as possible at camp.  I even premixed the pancake wet and dry ingredients and it worked perfectly. 

Christy came up with this post title when we were laughing our heads off while she tried to break up some logs for firewood that she found in the woods (okay, and I did try to break a log by whacking it against a tree because I'm a city slicker and don't know better).  She did not buy the $18 hatchet at the camp store, but we did mess around with my husband's pocket knife to see if we could be pioneers and get them hacked up.

I feel obligated to report that Genevieve and some pals caught crayfish, boiled them in a pan, and ate them.  I didn't get any photos, nor did I eat any.

The weather was sunny and warm during the day and chilly and crisp at night.  The only annoying thing I forgot was Phoebe's bib.  The adults lazed around, the kids raced around, and we all agreed we had a fantastic time.

the suppers:
corn on the cob, wrapped in foil, on the tripod grill over the fire
marinated grilled chicken
buttered green beans

walking tacos with beans and taco fixins
Christy's chocolate zucchini cake

hobo packets – sausage, onions sweet potatoes, potatoes, green beans, peppers, mushrooms 
bread + olive oil
Christy's chocolate zucchini cake

the breakfasts:
pancakes + pb + butter + syrup
coffee, milk

fried eggs
fried mushrooms
sliced tomatoes
biscuits wrapped in foil and warmed over the fire
coffee, milk

granola, fruit, milk or yogurt, coffee

the lunches:
hot dogs over the fire + buns + sauerkraut + ketchup + onions
baked beans
crudite with hummus

mountain pies with tomatoes/pesto/mozzarella
or pepperoni/pizza sauce/mozzarella
crudite with hummus

a final roundup of all the leftovers and scraps

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Summer Tomato Pie

I love this pie so much - its prep is straightforward, its ingredients are simple, and the flavor is wow! SUMMER.  Furthermore, I adapted the pie recipe that was recommended to me for my slow cooker because it's summer and the heat index was 104 degrees F today.  I use my slow cooker a lot in the summer - I run the extension cord out through the kitchen window and set the cooker on the table outside.

With this pie, I served our very own garden green beans (very proud of that!) with brown butter, and sweet basil ice cream with pine nut pralines for dessert.  Yes, truly.  That supper was the essence of summer for me.

Summer Tomato Pie

Line a 6-quart oval slow cooker with a crust for a 9" pie - bring it up the sides about 2".  I don't crimp it and the edges are definitely rustic. Prick bottom of crust with a fork.

Turn cooker on High for 30 minutes with lid propped open or cocked.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Thinly slice 3 medium-to-large tomatoes. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tsp. salt and lay in a colander or other porous container in the sink.  You must draw some of the water out of the tomatoes or your pie will be too soupy.  Allow the tomatoes to drain for at least 10 minutes.  Blot moisture gently with a paper towel or old kitchen towel.

After the crust has baked for 30 minutes, carefully (the crock will be hot) layer the filling ingredients below in about 3 layers, ending with cheese.

sliced, salted, drained tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 cup grated nutty cheddar like Dubliner, or freshly grated Parmesan
3/4 cup grated mozzarella

Then, dollop 1/4 cup mayonnaise in tiny dollops around the top and gingerly spread it over the top layer of cheese.  Aim to get it distributed as evenly as possible, but don't stress.  It's summer!

Put the lid on the cooker (not cocked this time) and keep it on High for 1 1/2 hours.  The crust should be crisp where it shows at the sides, the cheese melted, and some tomato juice bubbling.  Remove the slow cooker lid and keep it on High for 15 minutes to evaporate some juice.  Remove crock from cooking unit and allow pie to set for as much time as you have before you want to eat. The longer it sits, the more it firms up (we ate ours hot about 10 minutes after it was done due to hungry kids, so the second helpings were much easier to serve). Serve warm or room temperature.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Fun Skirt

For its comfort, amiability with all the shirts in my drawer, happy swish below my hips, and loopy flowers, I dub this skirt the Summer 2016 Fun Skirt.  I've worn it so much this summer I almost forgot to blog about it.

Even now, I can't explain why I love this fabric.  The colors are bold but clever, but that flower print?  Why do I like it?  I don't know, but I even thrifted a lavender tank top to match it.  I don't even like purplish colors!

I love this pattern, which Rebecca introduced me to:  a gored skirt with wide pleats, putting the
fullness where it looks good.  Unfortunately, my skirt turned out a little big so I sewed belt loops on it and wear the mustard-colored belt with it.  Easier than taking ripping out a pocket and a waistband.

And yes, Phoebe really did get down on the sidewalk on her forehead, wailing, when I told her we were not, in fact, going to the park but were just strolling so Genevieve could get some snaps of my skirt.

Phoebe puts her forehead on the floor and cries when situations do not please her.  When I am not keeping a straight face, I am wondering where oh where oh where did she learn that kind of drama?  Is it biblical? Hollywood-starlet-brat style?  She's a cool cat otherwise, so it just kills us when she turns on the drama.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Did I Break My Stroller For This?

I had onions on my list when I went to market, and the farmer said laconically, "how manyja want?"  And he handed me a heavy grocery bag full of seconds.  For free.  I had just canned my way through over a bushel of tomatoes and was not looking to preserve something.  I had never dealt with that many onions, some of which were slightly rotting and most had that black stuff which looks like mildew to me.  But I rarely decline FREE.  "Do not resist chances: take them like vitamins" (an internet meme I have pinned to my canning board on Pinterest).

I had a stroller full of market purchases, so I hooked the heavy bag onto the clip on the handle and creaked home.  The stroller collapsed on the porch as I struggled it inside - Phoebe was fine.

In the chaos of getting the perishables into the fridge, Phoebe found the sack of onions on the floor and took several mouthfuls out of an onion before we noticed.  She eats the bits of onion out of her food and says "yum", so I should not have been surprised.  I set aside the nibbled onion with the worst-looking onions.

I googled around until I found an easy onion jam to can.  I used this one.  When I tasted the finished jam, I didn't care for the lemon peel in there.  We'll see - sometimes citrus needs some time in the canning jars to taste right to me (for example, marmalade).

The jam wasn't done cooking down until around 9pm.  All my equipment was on hand due to the bushel of tomatoes, so I turned on the outside light and canned that jam in my canner on the grill burner (I do really wonder what my neighbor the judge thinks of all my machinations as she sits on her side porch in the evenings).

And while I was waiting for the jam to process, I filled up the recently-emptied slow cooker with sliced onions and olive oil to caramelize overnight.  My husband came into the kitchen at 10pm and very nicely got out the other big knife and helped me.  We went to bed with stinging eyes from all those onions, I'm afraid.

The next morning I had to cook and stir the caramelized onions with the lid off a few more hours to get them browner and evaporate some liquid.

I packaged them up for the freezer.  The only ideas I have for them right now are  a caramelized onion pasta sauce from Moosewood, steak toppings, and French onion soup.

And then, my husband looked at the broken stroller and said, oh, that's easy.  He got out his drill and fixed it somehow (Phoebe helped).  I think his drill died a natural death in the process because he told me he found a replacement on ebay.

I still have a number of onions to use up - good thing I signed up for chopped onions for all our Labor Day festivities!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Bushel and a Half of Tomatoes

I spread out the work over a week or so mid-August.  I almost didn't take any photos because tomato canning is basically routine in my kitchen in August.  But hello Margo! that is the point of your blog:  making sure you remember the work that is not news, but rather is familiar and rhythmic and therefore often discounted as interesting, real, or hard.

Well, I worked hard and competently to put up all these tomatoes.  My big kids did all the blanching and peeling all by themselves.

So far for 2016, I have:
12 pints salsa
24 quarts whole tomatoes
9 quarts tomato soup
9 half-pints ketchup
8 pints pizza sauce

Some clarifications:
1. The half-bushels of seconds tomatoes cost $6 apiece this year.
2. The salsa came from a bunch of really ripe tomatoes and peppers that my friend Naomi gave me one Sunday, not from the bushel-and-a-half.
3. I would still like to can at least 4 more pints of pizza sauce.  A little more ketchup, too, if the opportunity arises.
4. I set goals for canning after taking an inventory of my basement canning shelves this spring.  So these jars are being added to some food left from last year.  The only canned food I try to use up every year is pickles because they seem to get mushy with time.

5.  And a dirty little canning secret:  I have been re-using my canning flats.  All the authorities tell you not to do this, but everybody in my mother's generation re-used their flats with no ill effects.  I did it this winter with a few small batches to see how they would hold up because I was awash in used flats.  No poor sealing that I can see or taste.  But of course, you must decide who to listen to and how to keep your family safe: I just wanted you to know what's going on over here.