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Archive for the ‘canning’


The June List 2

Posted on June 21, 2011 by crankycheryl

We picked strawberries today at the Charlotte Berry Farm, a.k.a. “berry picking heaven.”  The boys love it because they have excellent toys and creemees, and I love that the farm is owned and staffed by lovely people who don’t spray their strawberries with all manner of toxic badness.

Though the little guys did primarily focus on Legos, I got E. in the field with me to pick berries for the first time ever.  He was racing up and down the rows with his flat, screeching when he found big berries and plucking and plucking away.  Who knew that all I had to do was casually tell him to come with me and he would?

And if we’re picking strawberries, it must be June, a realization that leaves me in the blessed and happy-anxious state of preparing for the Vermont harvest ahead.  It’s true that it’s off to a slow start because of our sodden fields (beautifully written about by Melissa Pasanen in our local paper).  But it’s still time to think about preparing for easy meals in the hot months ahead – not to mention the long winter that’s not too far behind.

So today’s Tuesday Tip is my Food To-Do List for June.  I’m about halfway through, and I will or won’t get there but at least we’ll have berries.

  • Try to use up any lingering 2010 food that’s still in the freezer.
  • Then defrost the freezer.  But do remember to put down something to catch the water.  Yep.
  • If buying ahead, choose items that will combine well with salad ingredients or grilled meals.
  • Pick strawberries for freezing or canning (this year I’m not making strawberry jam and am only freezing).
  • Pick first greens for braising/cooking and blanch and freeze them.
  • Put aside one or two cool nights for baking muffins, cookies and biscuits so I’ve got some baked goods in the freezer for when it’s too hot to crank the oven.
  • Pick rhubarb and freeze it.
  • Pick thyme before it’s in flower and dry it (oops – nearly before it’s in flower).

Or you could just go have a creemee.

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Make Marmalade in March 3

Posted on March 12, 2011 by crankycheryl

It’s March and the birds are singing like it’s spring.  I don’t know if it’s a lion or a lamb, but our colossal snow fall is now running down the streets in rivers of rain water.

 

Things just seem to becoming more and more, I don’t know, richer, deeper, entwined.  Now a dear friend’s daughter is coming to spend a night with us every week since her family’s having a hard time.  E. is in the school play, along with children with people I knew 20 years ago when I was young and crazy and looking at them across the school gym is just like looking across a dark club at them and I’m wondering if I still find them intimidating.   At church, Z.’s class is making soup to share with hungry neighbors so we’ve got beans on the stove to add to tomorrow’s soup pot.   My heart catches, twisting as I watch the kids coming into their own lives, laughing, earnest and wild.

 

And it’s March, it’s my father’s birthday month and it’s peak citrus season.  He loves marmalade and so I made him a big batch for his birthday.  Marmalade always feels like a special success when it works.  Whereas a berry jam has some body, marmalade is really just sugar with juice and peel so it really has to set up just on the basis of getting it to the right temperature.  I find this usually takes a bit longer than recipes indicate – if you go ahead and make it, just make sure you’ve got the hands-on time it needs.

Orange-Grapefruit Marmalade
6 1-cup jars
Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

1.  With a sharp paring knife, remove the zest from:

  • 3 lbs. mixed organic oranges and grapefruit.

Far be it from me to question the canning gods over at Ball, but I found their instructions to score the fruit into quarters, remove the peel a quarter at a time and then use a paring knife to scrape out the bitter pith unworkable.  So I pulled out this and used it instead:

You can also do this with any vegetable peeler as long as you’re careful to leave as much of the white pith behind as you can.

2.  Set the fruit aside and place peel in a stainless steel saucepan with enough water to cover generously.  Bring to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Drain off the water, cover again and repeat, until peel is softened.

3.  Over a saucepan or bowl to catch juice, use a sharp paring knife to remove the pith from the fruit, and then separate the segments from the tougher membrane.  Put the fruit into the saucepan and squeeze the membrane to make sure all the juice is in.  Toss out seeds and pith (but if you have a use for them please let me know).

4.  To the saucepan with segments add:

  • the cooked peel
  • 4 cups of water

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until peel is very soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and measure 6 cups, adding water if necessary to reach that amount.

5.  Prepare your canner, jars, and lids.

6.  Ladle 3 cups of the cooked mixture into a deep stainless steel saucepan.  Ladle remaining mixture into a second saucepan.  Bring both to a boil over medium-high heat.  Keeping it at a boil, slowly stir:

  • 3 cups sugar

into each pan.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the gel stage.  Remove from heat to test, and then keep cooking if necessary (My recipe said it would take 12 minutes, but it took 45.  Here’s how to test.)  Once you’ve gotten there, skim off the foam.

7.  Ladle hot marmalade into jars, leaving 1/4″ head space.  Remove the air bubbles by poking down the side with a chopstick, and add more marmalade if necessary to get the proper amount of headspace.  Wipe rim, center lid on jar, and screw the band on without overtightening.

 

8.  Place jars in canner so that they’re completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil, cover and process for 10 minutes.  Remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool and listen for that satisfying little pop that means the jar has successfully sealed.  (If it doesn’t, just keep it in your fridge and eat up in the next couple of weeks.)

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Blackberry Chutney Recipe 2

Posted on August 09, 2010 by crankycheryl

My inner hoarder has come out to play and I’m in an absolute frenzy of food preservation.  So far:

  • 26 jars of blueberry jam
  • 8 jars of gooseberry jam
  • 6 jars of gingered zucchini marmalade
  • 6 jars of blackberry rhubarb chutney
  • 4 pints of canned peaches
  • 10 pounds of frozen blueberries
  • 6 quarts of frozen blackberries
  • 4 pints of frozen shredded zucchini and carrots
  • 4 pints of frozen roasted tomatoes and garlic
  • 3 freezer bags of various roasted vegetables
  • 3 pints of frozen rhubarb
  • 1 bag of Czech plum dumplings

My kitchen is now a living fruit fly museum, the house is a wreck and I’m busier than if I had an actual job.  Is this because having a basement filled with food helps assuage the upheaval of part-time contract work?  Because Z. is starting kindergarten and I’m trying to maintain an illusion of control?  Because it’s an especially delicious harvest year?  Who knows.  I keep claiming that I want to stop with all the fuss and crankyGreg keeps telling me that I won’t.  He’s probably right.

Maybe you need a recipe to help with your own neuroses, or for some more sane purpose like gift giving.  Here’s one I adapted to use up the blackberries that have been going crazy around here, as well as some late-season rhubarb and gone-to-seed cilantro.  It’s tart, sweet, and a little spicy in addition to being beautiful.

Blackberry-Rhubarb Chutney
Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Yield: 6 8-oz. jars

If this is your first foray into canning, read this and this.

1.  Prepare your canner, 7 8-oz. jars, and lids, and keep warm.

2.  In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine:

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1 cup chopped rhubarb stalks
  • 1 cup shredded peeled green apple
  • 1 1/4 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1 can of chopped pineapple in juice (or else 2 large grated peeled green apples)
  • 2 T. finely chopped ginger
  • 3 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 t. orange or lemon zest
  • 1/4 c. orange or lemon juice
  • 1 c. red wine vinegar

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for about 15 minutes.

3.  Add to the mix in the saucepan:

  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar (make sure it’s cane sugar when you’re canning)
  • 1 c. golden raisins (I left these out, but would have thrown them in if I had had them around)
  • 1 c. water

4.  Make a spice bag with some cheesecloth or a stainless steel tea ball with:

  • 1 T. coriander/cilantro seeds (fresh if you’ve got them on your bolted plants in the garden, dried if not)
  • 2 hot peppers, as hot as you like.

Boil gently until thickened, about 15 minutes.

5.  Ladle hot chutney into hot jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles by poking a chopstick or similar implement around the sides of the jar, then adjust headspace by adding more chutney if necessary.  Use a clean damp cloth to wipe the rim, then center the lid on the jar.  Screw band down until fairly tight, but don’t over-force it.

6.  Place jars in the canner so that they’re completely underwater.  Bring to a boil and then process for 10 minutes.  Take off the lid.  Wait for 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store in a cool place once you’ve made sure the jars have a good seal.

There.  Don’t you feel better?

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Charlotte Berry Farm 6

Posted on July 31, 2010 by crankycheryl

Ah, blueberries.

My friend Robin tipped me off that she had heard that Charlotte Berry Farm was worth a try.  “$2 a pound and nearly organic,” went the rumor.  I packed up the boys and we went to check it out.

We arrived on a recent perfect summer day to just a few cars in the parking lot, a sign that said, “We’re glad you’re here,”  and a purple and rainbow boat that sure looked like it was there for kids to play in.

Things were looking pretty good.

Then we went inside, where I confirmed Robin’s information: pick-your-own blueberries cost $2/pound, and they’re grown using Integrated Pest Management practices.  The boys’ eyes got huge when they saw the corner of the farm building that was set up with books and toys, including an enormous box of Legos.  They settled in there, which the lovely person staffing the counter said was okay, and I got a flat and went out into the field.

The berries were so abundant that it took just about an hour to pick 10 pounds (all Bluejays).  And it was a pleasure doing so among the tall bushes that screened the sun from beating down on me.  While I was there, a big group from a local camp wandered through; shouting, “Jackpot!” when they found a big branch of berries.  E. & Z. wandered out to find me, and then went back to play.  I followed them a little while later, and treated them to a creemee.  What you need to know about this treat is that the farm juices the berries that are in season and flavors their ice cream with it, which is how I got this:

And then we went home, where I made a big old batch of jam, froze two batches of pre-measured-for-pie fruit, and ate berries all afternoon.  And given the reaction everyone around here is having to the jam, I think we’re going back next week to do it all again.

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Henry Homeyer Says Don’t Can Your Tomatoes! 10

Posted on July 14, 2010 by crankycheryl

When I saw the Facebook ad for “Save Our Squash” and learned that there was a free food preservation class right here at Fletcher Allen, I was pretty excited to sign up.  And then it turned out to be with organic gardening guru Henry Homeyer, and I was totally sold.

So last night, crankyGreg and the boys settled in for some quality bizarre comic book creation, and I trundled up the hill to the Davis Auditorium, where a small crowd was gathering.  At the front was the featured speaker wearing purple high-tops and standing behind a table with a chinois, a food dehydrator, and other cool kitchen toys.

This was the way he introduced himself:

“I love to eat and am inherently suspicious of buying food in the grocery store.  I’ve traveled across the country and have seen how food is grown.  I want to grow as much of my own food as possible – and keep it as fresh and tasty as I possibly can.”

Cool.  Hard not to get behind that.

Then he looked around at that room full of gardeners, warned us he was going to go quickly and launched in, starting with gardening advice:

  • Get out there and pinch back those tomato suckers (the non-flowering/fruiting vines that are shooting out of the plants this time of year).  This lets the plant put more energy into fruit production, and will keep indeterminate varieties from getting monstrously tall.
  • Pick beans from pole bean plants often.  July is not too late to plant beans (or any plant that will mature within 60 days) in Vermont.
  • Thin carrots to 1″ apart or else he’s coming to your house to yell at you.
  • Want to successfully grow eggplant in Vermont?  Try a loaf-of-bread-sized dark stone next to the plant to raise the temperature around it and keep it a few degrees warmer at night.
  • He discovered and recommends happy rich greens, which he grows instead of broccoli raab because of raab’s annoying habit of instantaneous bolting.  He prefers the other because it’s much slower to go to flower, and also has tender stems and delicious leaves.
  • He grows rutabaga instead of potatoes because it can be mashed in much the same way but is not as susceptible to bugs or disease.
  • When it comes to peppers:  don’t fertilize, and pick the fruit young (don’t let everything ripen completely or the plant will stop producing more).
  • Both artichokes and broccoli produce what they should if their first central blooms get removed early.  (I took note because mine had just produced a bud.)
  • Mark your calendar for Labor Day, at which point he wants us to cut the tops off of Brussels sprouts and winter squash plants so they’ll work on their yummy parts instead of growing taller.

I was running out of room for notes, but he was just getting started talking about preservation.  I was shocked that he really doesn’t do much canning, relying instead on freezing, dehydrating, and the use of a root cellar he’s created in his basement, and storage in a variety of unheated spaces around his house.

He brought out a cool big insert, a “blanching basket” that was his prop for his blanching technique.  (Have I tired you out?  I have to tell you I was completely on the edge of my seat.)  Here’s what he said about the process:

  • Blanching is necessary for almost any leafy green in order to kill the enzyme that ages and toughens the leaves.
  • Most recipes call for twice the blanching time that’s required – 10 seconds for leafy greens, 1 minute for other things – just until there’s a color change.
  • The vegetables that require blanching before being frozen:  beans, broccoli & other cole crops, kale, chard, peas, summer squash.  He says (and I agree!) to skip the spinach since it wilts away to practically nothing.
  • The way to blanch vegetables to get the best result:
  1. Boil enough water in a kettle to cover completely.
  2. Fill a large bowl or 1/2 of your sink with water and ice.
  3. Blanch your vegetables for 10 seconds (leaves) or 1 minute (beans, broc, summer squash).
  4. Plunge into the ice water, then strain, spin in a salad spinner, dry in a towel, and place in a container or ziploc bag to freeze.
  • Tomatoes, leeks, peppers, and peaches can be frozen without blanching.
  • Freeze tomatoes by placing them in a freezer bag.  (And he demonstrated removing air from a freezer bag with a plain old drinking straw.)

And then he explained that he either freezes or dehydrates tomatoes because canning’s high temperatures kill the vitamin C in them.  Whoa.  And he doesn’t really like canning because of the time it takes and how hot it is and how scary botulism is.   (As I had just come from a batch of delicious gooseberry jam, I couldn’t really get behind the no-canning plan.)  But he then did admit to making a few jars of sauce every year.

Phew.

He showed us his fancy dehydrator and talked about how he uses it for tomatoes and hot peppers (the latter of which he subsequently grinds to powder, incidentally).  And he talked about simple storage: how beets, carrots, and potatoes like to be somewhere cool and humid  like a root cellar, and other roots like to be somewhere cool and dry, and how winter squash and onions like it dry.

After more specifics and questions and answers, we all crowded forward to check out the cool stuff and talk.

And then, my head swimming, I went home to pluck that artichoke and plan this week’s preservation.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves: Further Encounters with Weed-Eating 2

Posted on June 10, 2010 by crankycheryl

So at last I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the truth is that I’m liking it so much that I’m a little bit embarrassed.

I was sure that I was going to find it a total snoozer, and roll my eyes at all the stuff I already know.  Like I need to be taught how to eat locally and why it’s a good idea?  But reading it is like talking to another localvore friend, one who’s clever and funny and self-deprecating and good-hearted, and not as “preachy” as I’ve heard the book described.

Maybe that’s why I took it a little personally when I read the passage about how my new BFF’s year of eating locally was going to mean growing food and buying from local farmers.  And ABSOLUTELY NOT going to include gleaning weeds by the roadside because she didn’t want to fit some low-class stereotype.

Ahem.

I like collecting weeds, and I’m okay with knowing that my sons will grow up to be mortified by the habit.  It’s okay because one day they’ll appreciate my boundless creativity and thriftiness.  Of course by then I’ll be dead and my ghost will be hovering over the heads of their wives or husbands saying things like, “Really?  You’re too good for that?  You’re just going to throw out the peel and those greens and not even make soup out of it?  And what the hell is that thing you’re wearing?  You call that a shirt?”

But here and now my target is grape leaves (well, grape leaves plus eight uninterrupted hours of sleep and maybe paying my bills on time for once).  The vines are absolutely everywhere, and I’m gearing up for a big harvest and preservation.

And in the meantime, I’m preparing lots of dolmades with the fresh ones.  They’re a quick snack or meal, taste great, are gluten- and dairy-free, and easily made vegan.  Come on by and join me among the weeds.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
About 40 rolls

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over:

  • About 40 large grape leaves (or 2 small jars if you haven’t gotten the fresh wild ones around).

Let sit for 1 hour.

In the meantime mix well together in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (locally, humanely raised)
  • (if you want a vegetarian version substitute 2 cups dried lentils plus 1/3 cup of water for the meat)
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (your choice – I used oregano and thyme)
  • 1/3 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 T. salt (don’t skimp)
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Line a large saucepan with several leaves.  Then roll the remaining leaves by placing a leaf on a small plate or cutting board, vein-side up and with the stem facing you.  Put a heaping teaspoon of filling about an inch above the leaf’s bottom.  Fold over the left and right sides, then roll from bottom to top and place in the pan with the flap-side down.  Roll the rest of them and place in concentric circles in the pan, building to a second level as necessary.  Save a few smaller grape leaves aside.

Drizzle over the top:

  • 3-4 T. olive oil

Pour in:

  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 cups stock/broth or water,

Place remaining grape leaves on top, and cover with a small plate (this will ensure that all the stuffed leaves are sufficiently submerged).  Cover the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the rice and meat/lentils are cooked.  Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature – which is how much Mediterranean food tends to be eaten.

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Apple Pie Muffins for My New Favorite Person 2

Posted on January 29, 2010 by crankycheryl

Everyone, meet Glen.  Although he wouldn’t let me take his picture head-on, Glen is my new favorite person.   Why?  Because Glen (there in the purple) is bringing to a lovely and so far uneventful close the “Leaking Bathtub, Buckling Floor, Toxic Mold of Death,” chapter of our lives.

Allow me to recount:

We purchased our unit before it was even constructed as part of this new cohousing community.  It’s a great location, with trees out every window, lovely.  It was also the first unit to be completed.  We didn’t consider that we would be moving into the beta version of the development.  Instead I simpered, thinking how precious it was that our condo would be the ground-breaker in this little eco-communitarian paradise.

Over time, various problems arose, some large, some less so, mostly of the seems-normal-for-new-construction variety.  Then, in spring 2009, I noticed that the floor of the bathtub was feeling a little soft.  I invited neighbors over and we climbed into the bathtub in our socks, springing up and down a bit.  “Hmm,” we said.  Hmm.  We shrugged.

The caulking on the side of the tub kept pulling away and I keep dutifully replacing it.  Then, sometime in June, a small hill appeared in the linoleum near the tub.  Though I tried to ignore it for a couple of days, it was hard to keep that up.  Greg tapped his foot at me, and I started asking around for recommendations for a contractor.  My mother recommended Glen, who’s a friendly and burly Australian native.  We walked around the bathroom and started talking about likely causes.  If I was lucky, said Glen, it would prove to be a leak from the toilet’s gasket.  If we were unlucky, it would be a leak from the tub.  The only way to find out the cause would be to take up the floor and look, and he’d have to line up a plumber to assist.  Hmm.

A couple of days later, CrankyGreg came into the bedroom and said, “Um, I just tried to scratch some dirt off the tub, and I poked a hole in the tub.”  A hole in the tub was not something I’d ever really considered before.  We went to look at it, said, “hmm,” a couple of times.  I got on the phone to cancel a camping trip we’d been planning, since I’d have to stick around and get this fixed.

So I started making phone calls.  I left a message with the project’s general contractor, who never returned the call.  I spoke with the foreman of the plumbing subcontractor, who was the linchpin in getting to the tub’s manufacturer, but it took him 6 weeks to write three sentences on a piece of paper and submit it to the right people.  I called my insurance company, who promptly told me that my policy excluded damage incurred over time.  I contacted the condo association’s insurance company, who told me the whole thing would take about $1,200 to fix, including a new floor, new sub floor, new bathtub, and any necessary repairs.   We said, “No, thank you.”

I reported this to Glen, who told me to call back when I knew what I wanted to do.

In the meantime, we had a hole in the tub, but it was summer and kind of fun.  I sent the boys outside in the sprinkler to get clean, or else we went swimming.  A couple of times, I borrowed neighbors’ bathrooms, which was a chance to marvel at how clean other people’s homes are.

But time went on and the leaves started turning and now I really wanted some action.  Every time someone coughed or sniffled I became surer that we were sick because of mold spores.   I contacted the supplier of the tub, who had me talk to the quality assurance person at the manufacturer.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only homeowner he had ever spoken with, because what he mostly said was that I couldn’t call him, and had to deal with the supplier.  I called my lawyer, who came over and stood with me and looked at the tub and said, “hmm,” a few times and then told me I really should make some phone calls and get it fixed.  But that now he’d know what I was talking about when I called.

I really needed help.  In desperation, I called my insurance company and asked if there was someone who could just help get something done, like quarterback this for me.  From the other end of the phone came chirping crickets, silence, more silence, then, “You want us just to help you?  No.  We don’t do that.”

If there was a bright spot in my dealings with this wacky cast of characters, it was Donna at F.W. Webb, who had purchased the unit.  Although neither of us knew what to do, she made suggestions and gave me names and phone numbers.  Finally, now in October, I told Donna that I had had it, and asked her to relay to the tub’s manufacturer that she had an extremely irate homeowner who was ready to call the state’s attorney.  A few minutes later, Donna called back with the name, phone number, email and fax number of the person who handled such claims.  She told me what I needed to do.

It took me until December to have the two necessary estimates (in Vermont, we don’t do much in the way of home repairs in November because it’s deer season), and send them off to the company.  Then just before Christmas, I got a call from Scott, one of The Big Bosses at the manufacturer, who was telling me that they were of course going to replace the tub and pay for all necessary repairs.

So as I write this, I have a newly installed tub, and am picking out new linoleum (this, I think) and paint (Misty Memories, 2nd row from bottom, 2nd column from the right).   The toilet isn’t attached, and Greg says I’m on dukey duty if the boys decide to use it anyway.

That aside, things are looking up. The damage was fairly contained to one area, and there was no actual toxic mold.  I even heard words I’ve never before heard in this context, “You know, everything went right for you that could have.”  and now Glen is leaving for the weekend.  But not without having had some Cranky Love in the form of Apple Pie Muffins, really the least I could do.

Of course, the job isn’t quite done yet.

Apple Pie Muffins
Makes 12

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk together in a medium bowl:

  • 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
  • 2 T. ground flax seed
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. cinnamon (I used cardamom, which I always do, but I don’t like to go on and on about it like I’m some kind of weird cardamom nut)

In a large bowl, mix together well:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 5 T. melted butter or olive oil
  • 1 1.2 c. peeled, cored, chopped apple, or apple pie filling

If you use fresh apples, let them sit for 10 minutes to soften.

Stir the flour mixture into the egg-apple mixture, just until mostly combined. A few lumps (not just the apples) should remain.

Put into muffin tins and bake for 14 – 18 minutes.

When done, remove pan from oven and let muffins cool for a few minutes in their pan before removing to a rack to cool completely. Feed them to your contractor and any other people who might be hanging around looking hungry.

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Crockpot Apple Butter 2

Posted on October 21, 2009 by crankycheryl

I don’t know what’s happening here, but I know that I’ve got far too much to do and far too many apples that have been sitting around here since I picked them (more like “picked them up off the ground”) on Saturday.  They’re starting to look kind of surly and impatient.

I’m so busy right now, working here and here and on this.  Work is good!  But it’s cutting into my cooking and blogging time, for sure.

Still, I found myself with the time to make some apple butter, and the time to at least plan to make some chunky apple-raisin-spice jam.  Or more apple butter.  Or compost, at the rate this is going.

In any case, if you find yourself with a wild herd of apples looking accusingly at you, may I suggest getting out or borrowing a crockpot and making yourself some delicious apple butter?  It’s easy, and a comforting balm for these overworked days.

The recipe is simple.

Get a boatload of apples.

applepicking 008

Peel and cut a bunch of apples.   If you have a good peeler/corer/slicer, go ahead and use it.  (Maybe you’ll have results better than mine.)  If you have a crappy one, why not just skip it and use the usual implements like these?

apple butter 2 004

Peel and cut until your crockpot is full.  Maybe a little less full than this:

apple butter 2 001

Put the lid on and turn the heat up to high.  Let it cook for 8 hours, maybe while you sleep.  But if you actually get 8 hours of sleep a night, don’t boast about it, okay?

In the morning, or after whichever 8 hours you choose, your apples will have cooked down to something like this:

apple butter 2 008Mash it all up with a wooden spoon, add 1 – 3 cups of sugar, and a 1/2 t. of whatever spices you like, maybe some cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, the usual.  Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 8 hours.  When it’s done, it will be a thick brown fudgy goo, looking maybe chocolate-y.  It’s not chocolate, but it will make people make yummy sounds and start going through your cupboards for a container to take some home in.

To eat it, just spread it on some good bread and enjoy.

apple butter on bread 002

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Apple Truckload Saturday 2

Posted on October 17, 2009 by crankycheryl

applepicking 006

Today was Shelburne Orchard‘s Truckload Saturday, and some neighbors and I went to load up – $50 for two carloads of Macs, Galas, Liberty’s, and Empires.  These neighbors, in fact:

applepicking 021

CrankyGreg says we looked like a bunch of hip, radical nuns, which I can live with.  We took our blessed selves and went and scavenged the “falls,” and jostled the last attached ones out of their branches.  And I’m wildly pleased to report that I climbed a tree to chase down some high-hanging Galas.

After a couple of hours we had two cars full of apples and were hungry, so we went up to the Orchard’s store and food area, where we found an enormous apple pie,

applepicking 019and these nice people frying up onion rings made with Ginger Jack in the batter,

applepicking 025

and sausages roasting inside their brick oven.

applepicking 028So now I’ve got 4 bags (about 2 bushels) of apples hanging around.  I’ve taken the first batch and started some Crock Pot Apple Butter.  With the rest, I’d like to can Apple Pie Filling, but can’t seem to find the Clear Jel I’d need.  Maybe more applesauce, maybe something else, whatever it is I’m sure E. & Z. will be tired of it long before it’s gone.

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Three Things to do with Nasturtiums 2

Posted on September 18, 2009 by crankycheryl

nasturtiumsI was going to delay this post until next week, but I’m all a-flutter.

I just saw on Facebook that my friend Paula is making nasturtium cordial.  Nasturtium cordial!  Doesn’t that make you get a little kooky and sort of Anne-of-Green-Gables-ish/ladies-who-sip-delicate-things-in-the-English countryside excited?

Nasturtiums are one of my all-time favorite plants.  I adore their smooth, round lily-pad leaves, their gracefully sturdy flowers, and I get all worked up about how every part is edible, from the leaves to the flowers to the seeds and (not sweet) fruit once the flowers have gone by.

If you’ve been hanging around here with me for a few months, you know that I’ve found a few uses for them recently.  Here are some links to those, and also to a couple new tricks.

I also have some cucumbers pickling in the refrigerator with nasturtiums, their leaves, and Sichuan peppercorns that I’ll report on when they’re done in a week or so.

[Update 9/24/09:  Since the flowers keep going, I will too.  I’ve started a big batch of nasturtium, plum, husk cherry and raw honey cordial, which is getting nice and purple-y dark.  And this morning stumbled on this Carrot & Nasturtium Soup recipe and had to share.  Gareth’s recipes are usually terrific and very interesting.]

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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