apricots in stages

June 29, 2010

Today I picked up apricots from my friend’s tree. I didn’t pick them off of the tree, but from the ground. Little apricots, that are a bit spotty, but absolutely delicious! They are abundant, like little quail sized easter eggs, all over..

I brought the little speckled fruits home, and sat on my porch to pit them. Today was a perfect day to sit outside. Sunny breezy, and only a few bugs…after the apricots were pitted I covered them in sugar and a little lemon juice.

The power went out, so I couldn’t finish making the jam, but it doesn’t hurt to have the fruit sit in sugar for a bit. A few hours later, I turned on the heat, cooked the apricots, washed my jars, and heated my water for a hot water bath. The usual steps for jam, with a kitchen full of sweet apricots.

The finished jam was thicker than I expected it to be, and some of the cute little spots on the skin still showed up. And I have already had a huge spoonful of jam in my yogurt!

black raspberries

June 28, 2010

Black raspberries remind me the most of my childhood. We would go out into the woods and fields and pick as many as we could. We would bring the berries home and my mom would help us make jam, pies, and crumbles. It would always be a few precious jars. Black raspberries are sometimes all over the place, but more often few and far between. And it is way too easy to eat the berries while you are out foraging…

My friend Bob took me to some really good spots in a field next to his house a few days ago and we picked and picked and picked. He has a good system for picking berries. Belt an empty milk jug with the top cut off around your waist, and have both hands free to pick, balance, and navigate through the undergrowth.

After picking the berries, I took them home and was way too busy for a few days to do anything other than eat a few here and there. This morning I got them out, sat on the porch, and sorted out the sticks and leaves.

Then I sugared the berries, and added a little lemon juice to make a batch of jam.

Black raspberries are incredibly dark, sweet and full of seeds, which I love. I made a simple jam, and bottled it to save mostly for my brother, who lives in the city.

nature’s colors

June 22, 2010

Anna Baumann and I spent the better part of the afternoon yesterday dying wool with plant dyes. We are going to have a natural dying workshop at the store this Saturday, and we were going over some of the things that we were going to use.

We hacked away at an Osage Orange log, and chopped up some purple cabbage, to come up with 5 beautiful colors!

We started with locally grown sheep’s wool, spun into a lace weight yarn. Little sample spools to test the colors and mordants!

For the Osage Orange dyes, we started with wood chips. Into the dyepot with some water and the wool.

After gently simmering the dyes, we added different mordants to our color mixtures with varying results.

Brightening from the citric acid and alum, and darkening and dulling from the iron. All beautiful colors though.

Meanwhile, the cabbage was very gently simmering on the stove. We used three separate batches of yarn (two yarn, one roving) to test the different mordants.

The cabbage with iron,

with the magic of citric acid, turning the dyebath bright pink,

and with alum, keeping with the purple cabbage look.

We took the finished wools out to the driveway to dump the dyestuffs, and rinse. They looked beautiful all laid out amongst the rocks. The final wools kept different amounts of the original dyes. Some faded more than others…so exciting!!

great wall of china

June 22, 2010

I feel a little like I built the great wall of China this afternoon. But only a little. Jay and I put up a fence around the pumpkin patch. If it doesn’t keep whatever is attacking the patch at bay I will electrify it. That is all I have to say on the subject. Oh, and we replanted the empty hills, removed the weird wire traps all over the place, and tidied up a little bit…

first place bread…

June 20, 2010

This year started out with bread. Plain and simple. 3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon yeast. Mix the ingredients together. No kneading necessary. Let the bread rise for a long time (about 18 hours) and then bake in a hot hot hot dutch oven.

If you use the same sized dutch oven that we used, beware of your bread sticking to the top and burning. Like ours did.

My mom went to check on the bread, opened the lid, and couldn’t find the bread. She thought that I had taken it out, but wasn’t sure why. Then Kathy saw it hanging for dear life from the bottom of the lid. It was probably the best part of my day. So funny.

I was ready at this point to throw the bread away. Not particularly disappointed, mostly because I got such a good laugh out of the whole thing. My mom however, set to diligently scraping off every bit of charred black. We entered the bread, and to my complete surprise won first place for it…

Go figure. I guess that it must have tasted a lot better than it looked.

enchilada bake

June 20, 2010

I love recipes that have the word bake in the title. It implies something hearty, and, well, baked. For our main course entry in the dutch oven competition, we made an enchilada bake. I should really say, my mom made and enchilada bake.

For the layers, she included tortillas,

a delicious home made tomato sauce with fresh bell peppers, a mixture of sour cream and ricotta cheese, grated prairie breeze cheese, and black olives.

Simple simple simple. And then on with the coals.

Coals on top, coals on bottom. There is a specific number that you are supposed to put on for the different sizes of dutch ovens, and for different baking temperatures.

And the result was delicious. Hot and bubbly. To top off the dish she made a fresh salsa of tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro from the garden, and a touch of green onion.

Note the extensive use of oil cloth…

For the dutch oven cookoff we made a whiskey sour cherry spoon bread. A not too sweet cake, rich with butter, and filled with fruit. Cherries soaked for a few days in whiskey and sugar.

We preheated the dutch oven, melted the butter, and then added the cake batter. Then we carefully spooned in the sour cherries.

Then lidded the dish, making sure not to get any ashes in the cake, and set it aside to cook.

We whipped cream with vanilla and powdered sugar to serve with the spoon bread.

A simple and satisfying dessert.

I have a jar of cherries on my porch. They are solar cooking in a broth of sugar and whiskey. I got sick of pitting all the cherries, and this recipe called for unpitted (and unwashed) cherries, whiskey, and sugar. I had all the ingredients, as well as a quart jar, so I made use of them.

To pick the cherries, which were on a huge tree, my friend Duncan helped me out. We backed his pickup truck under the tree (over the sidewalk) and placed an 8 foot ladder in the bed of the truck. I used a pail with a handle attached to my overalls so that I had both hands free for picking the cherries and balancing.

The cherries “cook” for a month, and are supposed to last up to two years.

I found the recipe (originally made with brandy) in a cookbook on preserving fruits and vegetables according to French tradition, without canning. I am not one hundred percent sure that I trust this method, and might not end up leaving them in the sun the whole time…not sure.

Cherries. My first attempt ended up with 8 jars of what my sister calls “Early Bird” cherry preserves.

I picked cherries in the rain, which was actually delightful. The rain washed the sticky ripe cherry juices off my arms as I picked, and the glistening cherries against the dark leaves were a treat to look at.

I brought the cherries home, set up camp on the porch (it had stopped raining) and pitted each and every cherry with my thumb. I have tried cherry pitters, but for small, ripe, sour pie cherries, the thumb works the best. After pitting the cherries, I put them in my jam cauldron layered with sugar. They sat for an hour (according to recipe) and then I heated the mixture to dissolve the sugar. Then the cherries rested again. Overnight this time. I woke up at 6 in the morning, with a clean kitchen, and heated the cherries and filled and processed the jars.

When I gave a nice little jar to my dad, I noticed, to my mild horror that there was a worm left in the jar…I guess organic means that worms get to enjoy the cherries as much as we do…and maybe I am not the best cherry worm remover.

disaster strikes

June 8, 2010

The pumpkin patch isn’t doing so well. I generally don’t mind deer and turkeys, but last night I was about ready to take a shotgun to them. Seriously! I had a beautiful idyllic little pumpkin patch, and then all of a sudden it was under attack. I have seen both turkeys and deer wandering through the patch, and so I am not entirely sure what is going on. Whatever it is likes the llama poop, and has dug multiple holes in each of the hills. It doesn’t care for (or about!) the pumpkins, just something in the llama poop, or something in the hills? I am not sure. Maybe some fungi or insects in the llama poop?

Bottom line is that I need a fence. My mom and I went out and created some makeshift hill guards, but we need a fence. Tall, strong, and preferably carrying an electric current.

We set to covering the hills with salvageable plants, and replanted where there were too many plants gone. I am going to go to the farm supply store today to research fences…

p.s. if you have any ideas or suggestions about what this might be, or how to protect from it, or what kind of fence to get please let me know in the comments section!