Peach Butter, Sauerkraut & “Pumpkin” Bread

I had a fun day at my friend’s house. She brought home cabbage,kale, purple cabbage and lots of squash from her sister’s organic farm. We spent the morning making fermented sauerkraut with the kale and cabbages. While we were chopping and salting, we had her oven filled with baking squash..Delicatas, Hubbards and Butternuts. Once the squash were cooked and cooled we skinned and seeded them and mashed the pulp. With that, we made lots of “pumpkin” bread. She added cranberries and nuts to some of the loaves. Once baked and cooled, most of the loaves went into the freezer along with the mashed squash that was left over.
My own squash crop was dismal but I did have a volunteer vine that grew from the compost I added to the asparagus bed. I let it go and it turned out to be acorn squash that yielded a few nice little gifts.
I harvested a delicious basket of peaches from the tree my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day. After eating our fill, I made a couple of jars of peach butter from what was left. I cooked about 12 smallish peaches, pitted but not peeled, on top of the stove with a little bit of water until they were soft. Then I put the mixture through the food mill. I ended up with 3 cups of pulp and juice. I added 1 1/2 cups of sugar (2 to 1 ratio), cinnamon,allspice and ginger to the pulp and simmered it slowly and gently on top of the stove until it was thick, stirring it so it wouldn’t burn. Then I poured it into hot, sterilized jars, sealed them up and processed them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. It came out delicious!  I think  it will be really good on fresh, warm buttermilk biscuits .

Freezing Apples, Crisp & a Happy Picture


Organic apples were on sale at our local market last week for $1 a pound. I bought 6 pounds of them and froze them for baking. They can be frozen whole but it’s a pain to peel and core them frozen or defrosted. I peel, core and slice them first, then freeze them. They aren’t good raw once they’re frozen but they are great cooked. The only thing is, they give out more liquid than the fresh ones would. I counteract that by adding arrowroot flour to the apples so the juice thickens up instead of being watery. Corn starch is another option but I prefer arrowroot. I use it to thicken gravy too.
The apples in the freezer came in handy today when my daughter called to say she was dropping by this afternoon for a quick visit. I filled an 8×8 baking dish with a mixture of frozen apples, 2T of arrowroot, 1/8 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Then I made a quick, standard crisp topping -3/4 cup brown sugar combined with 3/4 cup flour and 2t cinnamon. Add 1/2 cup butter. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients (like making pie crust) until everything is mixed together and crumbly. Scatter this over the apples and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the apples are tender. *This topping is delicious with pears and peaches too!
By the time my daughter got here, the kitchen smelled like cinnamon and apples. I made some tea and showed her the picture I finished for the nursery I’m planning upstairs. We had the apple crisp warm and I whipped up a little cream to top it off.

Americana and a Mansion

It was a beautiful day for a ride. We went through a covered bridge in Connecticut, drove up along the Hudson River and detoured for a few minutes to gawk at one of the Vanderbilt mansions.


In Rhinebeck we saw an interesting looking tavern, the Liberty Public House where we stopped for lunch. The bar was gorgeous. The decor was old Americana.  Some of it was a little creepy… as was the trip up to the bathroom, lol.

The people there were fun and friendly and the food was good.  I got a salmon burger that was the best I’ve ever had.. lots of fresh salmon, seasoned and cooked perfectly with a hint of dill and dressed with tzatziki.

Red Currant Jam & Cucumbers

I should have made pickles today, I have loads of cucumbers. But… there was a beautiful bag of frozen red currants in the freezer that’s been calling my name. This is the first year my red currant bush fruited. It only yielded about 4 cups, not even enough to make a pie with. Still, I wanted to make something special with the berries.
I remembered making grape jelly with my Grandmother. We had an arbor in the back yard that was loaded with dark purple, thick skinned grapes. They were so delicious. Jelly day started early, picking and preparing the grapes and sterilizing our jars and lids. The kitchen steamed up and smelled all sugary, like candy. In a few hours we had rows of glistening purple jars lining the counters. That gave me the idea of making a jar of jelly.

I  found a beautiful page on the Internet :  David Lebovitz, living the sweet life in Paris , that gave  simple and perfect  instructions.

I gently cooked the currants until they were soft, then put them through a food mill.   Weighing the juice on a postal scale, I came up with 6 ounces.  The ratio between fruit and  sugar for jelly is 1 to 1 so I knew I needed 6 ounces of organic cane sugar, which I also weighed out.

I brought the juice to a boil and skimmed off the scum that came to the top and stirred in  the sugar.  Everything was then brought to a boil  for 5 minutes.  It was at the perfect jelly stage!  Everything took less than an hour.

When my daughter came home, I made us a snack.  Homemade, buttered sourdough toast with red currant jelly and a cucumber smoothie, lol.  I don’t want to waste these cucumbers!  A combination of cucumber, frozen pineapple, frozen blueberries, a squirt of lemon juice and a spoonful of honey made a  really good and refreshing drink.

Fruit Toppings & Keeping Flowers

A few weeks ago I made strawberry topping for ice cream sundaes. There was some left so I refrigerated it used it to top the yogurt and kefir I make. It was delicious.  I decided to do a healthier version with the small amount (1 cup) of gooseberries I harvested. I mashed and cooked them down for a few minutes and then once they were cooled, I stirred in raw honey. Heat kills the enzymes in the honey. Had I been sweetening with sugar, I would’ve just added the sugar in the beginning with the berries. I’ll keep this gooseberry topping in the fridge and make blueberry and strawberry as well.

Flowers are so pretty I wish they would last forever. My cousin told me that Mod Podge preserves fresh flowers. I printed out some quotes that I like in a dimension for bookmarks. Then I decorated them with fresh flowers and glued and sealed them with Mod Podge. (Elmer’s or white glue works just as well but needs to be thinned a little bit with water.)

I posted about our losing my cousin John a few weeks ago. His daughter Stacey (she is so much like her Dad), sent me roses. I wanted to keep them so I made rosepetal beads . The link gives easy directions and a wonderful story of how they were used in Medieval times. The only ingredients were 4 cups of petals and water. They were very easy to make. I strung them on a chain that I wear with my Grandfather’s wedding ring and a few other things that are meaningful to me. Body heat imparts the rose fragrance. It’s a beautiful reminder to me of people that I love so much.

Sweet Violet Simple Syrup

Violets are in full bloom throughout the garden so I made some sweet violet syrup.  A spoonful in a cup of herbal or darjeeling tea  is  delicious.  A splash in a glass of iced water adds a tinge of color, subtle flavor and a  bit of sweetness.  It can be added to fruit salads, lemonade, iced tea or cocktails.

I picked violets without the stems and washed them in cold water.  Then I loosely packed the flowers into a clean glass jar and covered them with boiling water.   Eight hours later, I strained the infused water and measured it . There was 3 cups.  I put the violets, infused water and 3 cups of sugar (same measurement as the infused water) into a non reactive pan and stirred it over low heat until all the sugar was dissolved.  I added the juice of 1 lemon.  (Lemon is optional. I like the taste  better with the lemon but it does change the color of the syrup,  giving it a pinkish hue instead of purple.)  I strained the violets out with a  fine mesh strainer and poured the syrup into a sterilized glass jar. Once it cooled down, it went into the fridge where it will be stored.

I should probably mention that violets that may have been exposed to pesticides, lawn fertilizers or sprays should never be used.   Also, I took some shortcuts from traditional methods. I infused the violets for 8 hours  and most recipes recommend  letting them sit for 24 hours.  I used  organic cane sugar  which isn’t pure white and  I didn’t remove the green parts  at the bases of the flowers,  probably compromising the color of the syrup.  Here’s a link for a recipe without the shortcuts  and with some more good ideas on how to use the syrup.

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Away from the Snow

Aside from getting a flat tire on the highway in Washington DC at midnight, (watch those potholes!), it was lovely to get away from the snow for a few days.  My husband had some business in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Their spring seems to be slow starting too but it was definitely in the air.  Doesn’t this macaroni and cheese look delicious? It was!

Dominos, Snow & Salad Dressing

Last night my daughters came over for dinner and a game of Mexican Train Dominoes.  With temperatures in the negative digits, 2 feet of snow on the ground and a forecast predicting more snow for 3 straight days, I needed some fun.  Plus, I got to to send care packages home with my girls.

We had escalloped potatoes with ham and a  big salad with homemade dressing and some side fixings.   Instead of mixing all the salad ingredients together, I  put everything on the table like a salad bar.  Mixed lettuce, tomatoes and celery went together in a big bowl  and  then onions, blue cheese, dried cranberries, nuts, avocado, peppers were in their own smaller bowls. Everyone added what they liked to their own salads. I made a basic creamy garlic salad dressing by mixing these ingredients together in a jar:

  • 1 small, raw garlic clove, mashed (sprinkle a little sea salt on the garlic before you mash it up to pull the juices out of it)
  • 4 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (  I used apple cider vinegar but white wine vinegar is good too)
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • salt and pepper to taste

This tastes better if it’s made a few hours ahead and even better made the night before.  It will stay about a week in the fridge.   Shake the jar before serving.

For dessert I made vanilla cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

I’m ready for the snow.

 

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Big Blizzard, Soup with Potato Dumplings

A Big Blizzard is on the way with 2-3 feet of snow  predicted and 50-60 mph winds.  The governor has a travel ban posted after 9pm. tonight.

The news was stressing me out, speculating on all the worst things that could happen and issuing warnings so I turned it off.

I happened to have  a good bit of stock ready this morning so I made a big pot of soup.  Some left-over mashed  potatoes mixed up quickly into little dumplings.  They  were very easy to make.  If you’d like to try them, here’s the recipe;

Make a little well in  3/4 cup of mashed potatoes.  Crack a large egg into it.  Add 1/2 cup flour and salt, pepper to taste.  Combine it all together with your hands. It will be very soft and have a moist consistency.   Drop by 1/2 teaspoonfuls onto simmering soup.   In a few minutes, the dumplings will rise to the top.  Simmer an additional 30 minutes.

Sometimes I make potato noodles instead of dumplings.  It’s just a matter of adding extra flour to this same dough so it gets stiffer.  Then, on a floured board you roll the dough with a rolling pin, quite thin, and cut it into noodles.  Add them to simmering soup and they are done when they rise to the top.

 

Pie for Breakfast & Christmas Cactus


I officially start my Christmas season with pumpkin pie for breakfast. Thanksgiving was wonderful, all 3 of my girls were here. We had a great day, lots of good food, games, memories and so much to be thankful for! Yorkshire pudding was on the menu, as it has been for generations in my family. This year it raised up nice and puffy….made up for the gravy which was a little on the thin side, lol.
I saved some of the seeds from the spaghetti squash. Hopefully I can get these to grow in the spring and if I manage to confound the dreaded squash borer this year, I love the idea of having squash in the summer from the one we had at Thanksgiving.
The market had these pretty Christmas cactuses for $5.00. I couldn’t resist. They are easy house plants and live for generations. Once this little cactus settles down and gets used to its new home, I’ll transplant it and with permanent marker write the date and my name on the new pot. I’ll paint a rock with the same information and a little picture of a bee. If I use acrylic paint and varnish it, set it on top of the soil with the plant, that will last for years too. Maybe some day a grandchild who loves plants like I do will have this plant! My blogger friend Ginene, from Fox and Finch Antiques had violet plants that were her great Aunt’s from 1955! Thanks for the inspiration, Ginene, and have a wonderful day everyone!!

Thanksgiving plans


The snow is falling and the lights are blinking. Six to nine inches of snow are predicted but it’s alternating with sleet so the roads are treacherous and the lines are heavy. All I can do is keep cooking. If there is no power tomorrow, we’ll load up my old jeep with food and figure things out.
I started my pies early. The dough was mixed up yesterday so I just had to roll it out and prep the fillings. My daughter came home from college yesterday and I was happy thinking about her waking up to the smell of pies baking, in her own bed. Unfortunately, the apple pies started bubbling over onto the bottom of the oven and caught fire. Smoke poured out from the stove and the fire alarms went off, LOUDLY all over the house. I opened the doors and the dogs took off in 2 different directions, running outside towards the road. I would like to say I quickly, calmly and competently handled the situation…BIG LIE
I made a cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries and brown sugar but it was too watery and didn’t taste very good. I added a lot of blueberries that I had frozen from my garden, cider vinegar, allspice and cinnamon and cooked it down until it got thick. Now it’s delicious. The pies are kind of a funny color though.
Things rarely come out the way we expect them to. Maybe tomorrow will turn out to be the perfect ‘Norman Rockwell’ Thanksgiving! Probably not. That’s okay.