Thursday, August 29, 2013

From soil to belly

A full harvest of peaches has come to us. They came from Connecticut where they have been growing this season at the Husband's family's homestead. The tree was planted originally to enjoy the spring flower blossoms. Now, five years later, it is yielding fruit.

Tante LoLo, as the Rutabaga calls her, brought us the harvest from one full peach tree. This is as close as I get to full circle. I know where the fruit grew this season and how it was taken care of.  The full harvest from one tree was kept together and brought to my house. Then we turned this abundance into jam. For the last couple mornings the whole family has enjoyed eating the jam with breakfast.

We made two different peach jam recipes. The first was a simple peach jam using Pomona's pectin.

4 cups mashed peaches
1/4 c lemon juice
2 cups sugar
3t Pomona's pectin and 4t calcium water
Follow the link above for the rest of the canning recipe.

The jam was delicious and straight peach. It was a little overly sweet from the sugar, and next time I'd try maybe 1 1/2 cups.

The second recipe we made was Maple Vanilla Peach Jam from Preserving with Pomona's Pectin. This jam was delightful. I don't know that I had ever actually cooked with a real vanilla bean before. (I usually skip over the recipes that call for them.) But this time we decided to go for it. Hand-tended peaches deserved the best. Real vanilla bean has an exotic, yet comfortably familiar, flavor to it. This recipe also used maple syrup instead of sugar for the sweetener. I preferred it because the taste was sweet without being cloying.

Here are Tante LoLo and I with our yield, minus the jars that were already consumed for breakfast and a bag of peaches still ripening in my kitchen.

The postscript is that they brought us a peach tree which we planted in our yard yesterday. In a couple years, hopefully, we too will have peaches to harvest.

Week 11: Veggie CSA

This week's bag:

Included: 3 Japanese eggplants, 1 bunch arugula, 4 cubanelle peppers, 3 cucumbers, 1 pound green beans, 2 summer squash, 1 bunch radishes, 3 pounds tomatoes, and 2 pounds peaches. 

I also couldn't resist and picked up a 20lb. box of peaches.

The plan is to:

  • Freeze the green beans and summer squash.
  • Make salsa again with the tomatoes and some of the peaches.
  • The rest: I'm actually not sure yet. I need to find some good dairy-free eggplant ideas.
What are others inspired to make this week? I could use some good ideas!

Update: We made Pan-fried Eggplant from Food52 with the Japanese eggplant and it was quite good. I omitted the Serrano chili pepper, although next time I would substitute it for ginger.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our eggs come from here...

Our eggs come from right here: 

That's the Rutabaga showing you his favorite chicken. We recently found that you can get fresh eggs from Wright-Locke Farm just up in Winchester. While we dream about having a chicken coop in our backyard, it's a delightful alternative only five minutes away. 

Here's the hen house:

When you go, park at the bottom of the hill. Walk up and find your way into the farm "store". It's right next to the hen house. There's a fridge inside where the eggs are. You pay based on the honor system. Then wander down to see the goats and sometimes there are sheep.

Farm fresh eggs just don't compare to the ones from the store. They are rich and delicious with neon yolks. We eat them simply hardboiled, then put on top of toast with breakfast radishes, or sliced on top of salads, or scrambled with a side of bacon. All delicious.

I appreciate having a working farm so close to our house.

Recipes I'm thinking about...

Here are some recipes I've been thinking about. Clearly the end of summer, and wanting to hold onto it as long as I can, is on my mind. This week all the recipes are about canning or preserving.

Cranberry sauce
I took a canning class earlier this week, which was offered by Wright-Locke Farm. This recipe was on the blog of the canning class' teacher. I love the idea of making up some homemade cranberry sauce and eating it on "Thanksgiving" sandwiches throughout the winter.

11 Ways to Preserve Peaches
Some different ways to think about preserving peaches. They are in season right now!

Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Our tomato plant is yielding tomatoes in abundance right now. Most of them get eaten before they ever make it inside, but for the rest, this might be a good idea.

All of this has led me to think about hosting a canning party, particularly with apple season coming. I am going to work on sketching this idea out. Let me know if you'd be interested coming to something like this.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dinner Conversation

Last night, as I was putting the Rutabaga to bed and he said to me, "Mommy, we didn't do our question at dinner." It made me smile that we had been practicing a ritual long enough that he would notice its absence.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Veggie CSA: Week 9

Week 9. 

What to preserve right now?

This question was posed by a reader earlier this week:

... I am also wondering if you have any thoughts about what summer veggies
 I should stock in a freezer now before they become scarce? 
and how would I best preserve them? The parsley suggestion (earlier post) 
is a great one, does that work with other herbs? Like basil?

This is a great question! I thought about three criteria in shaping my answer:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Maybe I'm the last to know...

A couple household tricks that perhaps I'm the last to know. Just in case I'm not, here they are:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary! It's been 6 years today that the Husband and I have been married. We met nearly 10 years ago, and both of us are still incredulous that before the end of the first date we knew we would get married. See both of us are fairly logical people. We previously thought that love was hard and took time. Don't expect miracles. Yet, that first night something was different. It was easy and obvious.

The Husband jokes that at first he thought I was a vegetarian. He was rather disappointed to realize that the woman of his dreams might not share his love of bacon. What rejoicing there was when I ordered a burger on our second date. I remember in the early days having to remind myself to ask the Husband questions because I didn't know the answers yet. He felt so deeply familiar to me, like I had known him lifetimes already.

We got married in 2007, on a beach in Dennis, MA. We still reminisce about the feeling of being announced into the room together at the reception. It was amazing to look around the room, full of our family and friends, and feel so much love reflecting back at us.

Last night we invited our friends and some lobsters over to celebrate our anniversary with us. Our friends are an integral part to our marriage staying healthy. They indulge us in our never-ending invites to come over for playing and dinner. They are our in-town family. And they even tease me that my husband is taking pictures of lobsters for some other woman called Maple Sugar Mama.

We got two 6 pound lobsters. Here they are before becoming dinner. That's Rutabaga's foot next to the lobsters.

Here they are after cooking. In the background, you can see the turkey fryer we use for our lobster  boils. The lobsters were delicious. Some folks wonder if the meat is tougher in the bigger lobsters, but I think it's actually better. You get much more lobster compared to shell in the bigger lobsters. It helps though to have a husband who is not squeamish about handling and boiling them.

At our wedding we vowed to love and to cherish, through every joy and sorrow that comes our way. It's been a wonderful six years and I'm looking forward to many, many, more.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer love

This is summer love right here. I came home from work to this delicious plate. The tomatoes and basil were from our garden, with some added garlic, EVOO, and good bread. I like these kinds of displays of affection.

Veggie CSA: Week 8

Week 8. 

This week's share includes 2 pounds peaches, 1 box orange sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, 2 pounds new potatoes, 1 head cabbage, 1 bunch basil, 4 corns, 1 bunch baby bok choy, 1 bunch yellow carrots, 1 bunch red kale.

The plan:
- Peaches - just eat 'em. Consider making more sorbet or jam.
- Potatoes needs to be roasted and then served with overeasy eggs and pesto
- Cabbage - We made some fried rice with cabbage last week that was quiet delicious. The Husband also sauteed some cabbage with lots of butter, which could be repeated.
- Basil. Freeze and pull out this winter. Instructions are here.
- Corn. Boil for 3 minutes and eat the first night. Everyone knows you have to cook corn as quickly as possible, otherwise the starchy flavor will take over, right?
- Bok Choy - more stirfry, served with crispy garlic
- Carrots - need a plan
- Kale - ask friends for their kale chips recipe

What do others have planned?

What became of the plums

The plums had me stumped. They were pretty to look at, but they didn't have the kind of strong flavor I'd yearn to taste in the winter. I asked the others in our CSA clan what they were planning to do. I was met with puzzled responses. Looking around online, I found that we weren't alone. Most ideas were for tarts, sorbet or jam. I wasn't interested in making a dessert that I alone would be responsible for eating.  Eventually a savory recipe emerged - Chinese Plum Sauce from Serious Eats. The recipe is actually originally from Put 'Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Here are the plums ready to be cooked down. 

Here's the finished product. I think it's going to be delicious on grilled chicken or duck. Puzzle solved.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Freezing Parsley

We even freeze the parsley that we get from the farm share. We will use the frozen parsley in soups, casseroles, pasta, and other things where we want the taste of the parsley, but the appearance is not material. 

Wash parsley. Spin in a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible. 
Optional step - Remove the parsley leaves from the stems. 
Place a silpat on a large cookie sheet. You could use wax paper in place of the silpat. 
Place the parsley leaves on the silpat. 
Cover whole sheet tightly with saran wrap and place in the freezer for more than 12 hours. 
Once it's frozen, move the parsley into a freezer bag.

Peach Sorbet 2

For our next sorbet experiment we tried replacing the brandy with corn syrup. We expected this to effect the sweetness and mouth feel.

2 cups pureed strained peaches
1/2 cup 1:1 simple syrup
1/4 light corn syrup

For recipe instructions see: Tipsy Peach Sorbet, substitute corn syrup for brandy.

Tasting notes: This batch was actually quite delicious. The best compliment so far has been that "it tastes like a bite of summer." I'm curious in the next batch to keep experimenting with the mouth feel of the sorbet, as it's still a bit icy.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Posting comments on the blog

I've gotten a few questions about how to post comments on the blog. Here are instructions:

Start by clicking on the title of the post you want to comment on. Then scroll down until you find this:

Type your message into the Comment Box. Click on the "Publish" button. From the drop down list that appears click on "Name/URL" or "Anonymous".

If you select Name/URL, enter your name (real or imaginary). Entering a URL is not necessary. Click continue. It appears this option might not work on an IPad. IPad users may have to post as "Anonymous".

Enter the letters and numbers in the security check that confirms you are not an internet troll. Then get to a screen that says "Your comment was published."

Cheers to more comments!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Week 7: Veggie CSA

Week 7 of the Veggie CSA.

This week we received: 2 zucchini, 1 bunch carrots, 1 bunch bok choy, 1 bunch Japanese turnips, 1 bunch onions, 1 bunch parsley, 2 pounds new potatoes, 1 bunch tuscan kale and 3 pounds plums for the small.

My plan is to:
- Freeze the kale, parsley, carrots, and possibly zucchini
- Potatoes may become twice baked pan-fried potatoes. 
- Experiment with Japanese quick pickles with the turnips
- Stir fry the bok choy
- Kebab and grill the onions and zucchini.
- Look for recipes for the plums. Maybe sorbet.

What are others planning to make? in particular, I'm curious what others are going to do with the plums.

Tipsy Peach Sorbet

Applying the scientific method to my sorbet recipes is turning out to be quite fun. It's taking my natural inclination to tinker with a recipe and applying rigor to it. First up was peach sorbet. From my initial review of sorbet recipes I gleaned that the key components were:
  • The pureed fruit
  • Simple syrup, the ratio of sugar to water varies across recipes
  • Anti-freezing agent: either alcohol or corn syrup
Here's the recipe we tried for our first experiment together:

Peach Sorbet

2 cups pureed strained peaches (About 16 medium size peaches)
1/2 cup 1:1 simple syrup
2 T peach brandy

To puree the peaches: Boil a pot of water. Plunge the peaches in the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove peaches from the boiling water and plunge into a bowl of ice water.

Remove the skins, which should now slip off easily. Chop the peach and put the peach pieces into a food processor, like a Cuisnart. Blend the fruit until it is pureed. Strain the fruit through a mesh sieve to remove any pulp. Measure out 2 cups of pureed strained fruit. Use any remaining puree for another purpose. Set aside.

To make the Simple Syrup: Put one cup of water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Add one cup of sugar. Stir until dissolved. Keep on the heat for 30 seconds, then remove.

We actually made three iterations of simple syrup, each with increasingly less sugar. The first was 1 cup water to 1 cup sugar. The second was 1 cup water to 1/2 cup sugar. The third was 1 cup water to 1/4 cup sugar. For the peach sorbet, we went with the 1:1 ratio but used only 1/2 a cup of it. The other syrups went into the fridge to await future gigs.

To make the peach sorbet: Combine the pureed peaches, simple syrup and peach brandy in a freezer-proof bowl. Place the mixture in the fridge until it is cooled. Once cooled, remove from the fridge and pour the mixture into your ice cream maker. Follow the instructions of your ice cream maker. For ours, which is a KitchenAid attachment, I blend it for 11 minutes. Then put the mixture back in the bowl, cover it, and put it in the freezer. Allow the sorbet to "ripen" for at least 4 hours. 

Tasting notes: The levels of sweetness and peachiness were perfect. I personally didn't like the taste of the brandy. The brandy was not subtle, and this could be a cousin of our holiday Sweet Potato Tipsy. I'm curious to try the corn syrup in replacement of the brandy in the next iteration. The Husband thought it was delicious already.