Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Became of the Apples

As I shared before, I went hiking and came home with 13 pounds of apples. A bunch of these beauties were eaten out of hand but most of them were preserved. With an early batch of apples, I had already made dried apple rings and apple preserves/jam. I wanted to try some different options this time.

Applesauce was at the top of the list. I haven't been much of an applesauce consumer in the past but recently that has been changing. I've enjoyed mixing it into oatmeal, spreading it on pancakes and am interested in making more baked goods with applesauce. Perhaps the reason behind my burgeoning love of applesauce is a few delicious jars of sauce from Jamie and her mom, Charleen. As with many things, homemade applesauce is a million times better than store bought. This is especially true when you start with delicious and complex apples and don't add sugar to the sauce. So, if I want to increase my applesauce intake, I need to get a little stockpile of homemade sauce in my pantry. I started by cutting 6 pounds of apples into big chunks without peeling or coring them.

I put the apples into a big electric roaster along with cinnamon sticks, ginger slices a bit of water and some lemon juice. After a day of cooking down and occasional stirring along the way, the apples were soft.

I busted out my brand new food mill, washed it with soap and water and set to milling the cooked apples. Here is where things went downhill. The food mill was secretly releasing some sort of lubricant on the underside as I milled the apples through it. I noticed when I set it down on a plate to add more apples into it. When I picked it up, there was a little pool of grey applesauce on the plate! Yuck!

At this point, after investing hours into this sauce, I was not happy to see it get ruined. I tried to salvage it by scooping out any suspicious looking sauce from the bowl of apples that had already been milled and transferring the yet-to-be-milled apples to a wire mesh colander. I would have liked to just stop right there and accept a chunky sauce but, since I opted to leave the cores in while cooking it down, it had to be milled. I ended up using a spatula to push the sauce through the colander, hopefully filtering out the seeds and hard bits. It was irritating, to say the least.

In the end, my efforts and my 6 pounds of apples became 2 pints of sauce; sauce that may or may not be tainted with lubricant. I won't be making applesauce again anytime soon. Plus, now I am super leery of using my new food mill. Hopefully I will be the recipient of some more delicious applesauce from Jamie and/or Charleen come Christmas time this year.

After the sauce fiasco, I still had a few pounds of apples left. I wanted to preserve them, but wanted to try something interesting. Coincidentally, my friend Holly found an intriguing recipe for Sweet and Spicy Apple Slices and passed it on to me at just the right time. I haven't cracked these open yet, but I am definitely enjoying looking at them. The floating slices and spices are quite pretty. I'll bet the apple slices themselves will be tasty, but I am mostly looking forward to trying out uses for the syrup in the jar.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lacto-Fermented Curried Carrots

The garden is nearly done for the year. Last weekend we pulled up the root veggies. We did not treat them right, so they didn't grow very big and strong. I am sensing a theme in my planting style: plant them close together and don't baby them. Unfortunately, that approach yields tiny carrots and beets.

Next year I will thin them so they have more space. I will also do a better job of prepping the soil so that it is the right mix of sand and clay and so that it is loose enough for those roots to grow down. For this year, I have many tiny, stubby carrots.

I also let the cilantro go to seed and then dry out in the garden. This wasn't necessarily intentional, but as it turns out, it was useful! Cilantro is also known as coriander and I just happened to know of a recipe that combines carrots and coriander!

I separated the seeds from the plant and measured them out.

Then, I shelled some cardamom seeds.

I mixed them all together along with some other spices, some garlic slices and a halved and seeded cayenne pepper which also grew under neglected conditions in our garden.

We grew two varieties of carrots this year. The Carnival variety yields some gorgeous and vibrant carrots.
I put the carrots into the jar with the spices, leaving some of the roots on the smallest carrots. I didn't peel any of them since they were all so small. These are currently fermenting on the counter with the help of some kefir whey and salt. I still owe you a post about kefir! Soon. Soon, I will get that one together. I've opened the jar once so far and it bubbled, so I must be doing something right!

I was lucky enough to score a jar of Kim's Cultured Curried Carrot Sticks at a previous food swap, so I know of their potential. If mine turn out anything like her batch, I will be a happy rabbit.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Surprise Apples and a Happy Birthday

Ooh la la! Fall in Minnesota is pretty. That doesn't mean I am not sad to have missed Rhinebeck over the past weekend, though. I hope all those who went had a wonderful, wooly weekend and that you all had the apple crisp with caramel sauce. I hope to make it back to the festival again someday. Until then, I have the memories (2006 was pre-blog, 2007, 2009: 1, 2009: 2) and the abundance of fall activities here in Minnesota.

Jamie, Sylvia and I meant to go for a hike at Carpenter Nature Center but, when we arrived, we found out they also have a great orchard and it just happened to be Apple Fest day. I told myself that this year I would not purposely seek out apples, but if I happened into them, I would accept. I think accidentally going to Apple Fest qualifies, so apple picking we went.

Before picking the apples, we hopped on a hay ride that went around the orchard. The host described all of the pest prevention strategies they use to avoid having to spray the apples. From my experiences last year with cellulite apples and this year's mostly rotten apples from our trees, I was primed to learn about non-spray pest prevention.

Despite the fall leaves, it was actually a warm day!

At this orchard they have a tasting table set up in the orchard. It was great to taste each variety that was ripe and learn about their uses before choosing the ones we were going to take home. Plus, I am sure it saves them from having people taste and toss apples as they are picking. Good thinking!

Sylvia was a great apple picking helper and, despite the surly start, seemed to enjoy herself by the end of the afternoon. It probably helped that there were a lot of cool creatures to look at in the nature center including this curious snapping turtle.

In addition to posting about our fun day at the orchard, I also want to take this opportunity to wish Jamie a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! My friendship with Jamie is the longest friendship I have had, going all the way back to 3rd or 4th grade, depending on who you ask. She remembers me being tall and mean in 3rd grade and swears we weren't friends until 4th grade. I do not concede :) She is my friend but she is also family. A very happy birthday to you, Jamie! See you tonight for some craft-based celebrating!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pet Roundup

It has been a while since I have updated you on the super important activities of my pets. Fanny has taken to napping on the dog bed. Jack and Tchazo frequently share the pillow, but Jack was a little uneasy about sharing it with Fanny. She is tangential to his pack; neither friend nor foe.

After about a month or so, he warmed up to her and their personal space bubbles got a little smaller.

Tchazo doesn't know where he fits in with this new arrangement. There isn't enough room for all three of them and he is too polite to budge in.

Luckily, he prefers trips to the dog park to sleeping on his bed. So, while the elderly and feline members of the household take it easy, he gets to run and splash and dig and fetch.

Fall is a great time to go to the dog park as the stinky, mucky parts from summer have dried up and the air is crisp but not yet bitter cold.

You are invited to meet us there. We'll be going as frequently as possible for the next month or two. Chances are Tchazo will see you, pause like this for a minute and then run to you for some loving. Then, I suggest you throw a stick. If you pet him and then throw a stick, you will be in his heart forever.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Randomness

Well! I had not intended to be away from the blog for that long! It seems my to-do and to-make lists for this fall are big and mighty. Down time has not been much lately which is when I usually have time to process and post and write about stuff. I've got a bit to catch you up on!
I've been apple picking and apple processing. Full posts about apples to follow shortly.

After receiving our large cabbage delivery from my dad, Paul and I are trying out a different method of sauerkraut making. We are a week into it at this point and so far so good. When the results are ready, I will post a comparison between last year's (not very good) batch and this year's (hopefully really tasty) batch.

Along with the cabbage, we also received a cellar's full of squash, pumpkins and potatoes. There will be a lot of roasting and baking in my near future. I've also enjoyed sharing the wealth as I have lots of local friends who also treasure the tastiness of winter squash.

I've been pulling in the last of the crops from our garden and processing them. There have been a plentiful amount of small tomatoes still coming out of the garden. Those have been roasted, dried and frozen as they come in to the house. These particular roasted tomatoes were made using the recipe from Supernatural Everyday. I used some in the black bean salad recipe also from the book and froze some for use later. This book is new to my collection and I have been working my way through a bunch of the recipes.

I've also been making sure to spend a lot of time hanging out with people because as soon as the temps go low and the ice sets in, I am much less motivated to leave my house for social occasions. A few of my social outings recently include: an art opening with Jessy (photo above), attending and hosting some great crafting sessions, a dinner party where I met a whole new group of people, a yarn tasting with Jill and an open mic session at a neighborhood cafe. Paul and I have ate meals at a few new and a few favorite restaurants and we have been trying to get back on the cooking-great-meals-at-home bandwagon. It is funny how the gardening and preserving season takes over the kitchen and preparing meals takes a lower priority.

We've also been working on a lot of home and yard improvements. Rabbit proof fencing has gone up around the garden. Paint colors and flooring are being carefully selected and installed. Long researched and debated pieces of furniture and lighting are coming in and mismatched, random acquisitions from the past are being handed on to others. With each new box that appears, it must undergo the Fanny inspection. She wastes no time getting to work as this stack was in the house no more than 2 minutes before she took her perch.

With each change we make and each project we finish, it feels more and more like home here.
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