Friday, July 22, 2011

This Guy

This is my love. It is his birthday today. I hope this next year does right by him because the one he is leaving behind was kind of poopy. Even though this year included some rough times, I think we are both appreciative of all of the living we've done in his 32nd year. I feel fortunate that our life together is full of love and deep respect for each other. And silliness. There is a good amount of that around here, too.

Happy Day to you, my Paulie!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

MPLS Swappers' July Swap

Last weekend marked the 4th swap for MPLS Swappers. This once a month swapping schedule is keeping my fridge so well stocked with homemade goodies!

Our swap hostesses Mandy and Kim deserve some major props for pulling this one off! When we arrived at the swap, we found the doors to the site locked and a note directing us to head down the block to the park. Apparently, the locked doors were what Mandy and Kim found, too! They found a way to make the swap happen anyway and, in the end, the outdoor swap was probably a better fit for the super hot day then the non-air conditioned site would have been. With a rather hodge podge, yet functional assortment of picnic tables, benches and blankets on which we spread out our wares and a storm that patiently held off, the swap went wonderfully.

This month's swap included a lot of new swappers (and returning swappers) who went all out with packaging. Among the many beautiful items, the lemon confit in the photo up top was a real eye catcher and so were these cute herb assortments.

I didn't end up with one of these precious bottles of peppermint extracts, but I did get the scoop on how to make a batch myself. My mom bakes phenomenal chocolate peppermint bars for Christmas each year. Maybe this year I can have some extract ready to use in her recipe.

Some red, white and blue action going on with the red velvet cakes. I am starting to think everything looks prettier when presented in a canning jar!

I've been hearing a lot about preserved watermelon rinds, so I was happy to finally taste one. From the recipes that I have seen, watermelon rind pickles are a total labor of love.

There were so many other phenomenal goods there, too! Well done, MPLS Swappers!

For the sake of my memory, here is what I brought to the swap and what I took home with me:

Dried oyster mushrooms
These mushrooms were from this foraging excursion.

Wood Butter

In exchange, I brought home:
  • 1/2 dozen backyard eggs
  • Rhubarb Raspberry Peach Jam
  • Strawberry Jam
  • Balsamic Strawberry Jam
  • Thai Coconut Curry Hummus
  • Mulberries
  • Organic Strawberry Peach Ginger Jam
  • Poppyseed Bagels
  • Chocolate Beet Cupcakes
  • Baguette

Friday, July 8, 2011

Jam Jam Jam

On the Friday before the 4th of July, I harvested my first palm full of raspberries out of my backyard patch. That was the kick in the butt I needed to finish preserving the fruits I have squirreled away in my chest freezer from last year. Out with the old and in with the new!

I made a batch of raspberry jam thickened with help from the pectin in a few green apples. The recipe was Raspberry Jam with Mint and Lavender from Canning for a New Generation. I thought I had lavender in my spice drawer but I was all out. I didn't want to stop to go to the store so I ended up stirring in a mixture of spearmint and chocolate mint. I kept the green apple flesh in the jam (peels removed at the end). This made a perfect amount for my jars so I didn't have any leftovers to sample! I am curious to try this later.

I started rhubarb season off with a trip to the farmers' market to buy some because my own patch is just a baby and I hadn't been offered any from anyone else. Then word got around that I was interested in rhubarb and it started flooding in! I didn't want to turn it down, so now I have many pounds of it prepped in the freezer. After it is frozen, it is really only good for sauces and jams because it released a lot of liquid when it thaws. I guess I am going to have to wait until next year to try Roasted Rhubarb Ketchup.

I used up some of my stash in a Ginger Rhubarb Jam (recipe from Gourmet Preserves Chez Madelaine). This jam includes chunks of ginger root that steep in the jam and slices of crystallized ginger. This jam is in your face with its gingery-ness.

Lastly, Paul's mom Joanne gave us a cantaloupe and a watermelon at the same time. So as to not let it go to waste, I made a batch of Melon Preserves (recipe from Put 'em Up).

This was the first batch I have made with Pomona's Pectin. I was a bit disappointed because I ended up with fruit float and the jam only seems to firm up after it is refrigerated. Since making this batch, I've used it in another batch and had no problem. I wonder if my results were just due to the watery and chunky nature of the melon. Have you worked with Pomona's Pectin? If so, have you had good results? Have you made recipes without any sugar? How about honey as a sugar substitute? I like the potential for making low-sugar, no sugar and sugar substitute preserves.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vin d'Orange

This recipe for orange infused wine from Put 'em Up! called out to me. I wanted to start small, so I made a 1/2 batch. The result is very cinnamon stick-y which took some getting used to. After a few small glasses, I have grown fond of it. I've just been drinking it on the rocks, but Paul enjoyed it mixed with some seltzer water. The flavor is best described like this: if Christmas (cinnamon and vanilla) and Summer (bright citrus and clean white wine) had a baby, it would be Vin d'Orange.

The notion is simple and makes me want to play with more versions. Maybe next time I will leave out the cinnamon and use star anise instead.

After you infuse the liquids, you end up with a good amount of citrus leftovers. I didn't want to let all of the yummy infused fruit go to waste, so I consulted the ever-useful internet and came upon this recipe. One Hundred Eggs' recipe for Vin d'Orange sounds great, but since kumquats and meyer lemons are not in season, I just used his marmalade recipe for my infused oranges.

And, after all of that was complete, I took the leftover vanilla bean and added it to some sugar to see if it makes vanilla sugar. I love it when one project flows to the next.

If you try a Vin d'Orange recipe, I would like to hear how you drink it. I am sure there is big potential here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


My friend Jamie had her baby, which is a mixed blessing. She wasn't due for quite a while, so it wasn't so good that little Violet came when she did. But, before Violet came, Jamie's water had broken and she was on strict bed rest in the hospital. So, in that sense, it is good that Jamie only had to spend 2 weeks confined to a hospital bed rather than the 6 weeks they were aiming for. Born at 30 weeks, Violet is doing really overachiever already. Mom and Dad are proud!

After I was sure I wasn't harboring any summer sniffles, I was able to go and visit Violet in the NICU (talk about high security!). I brought with me these tiny colorful booties, which are still way too big (pattern here, Ravelry project here). Violet has some growing to do before she can go home, don a tie dye onesie and wear these booties. Grow, Violet, grow!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberries for the 4th

The strawberry season is quickly drawing to a close here, so I knew I had to act fast or I would miss it. My mom was on board for some picking, so we heading south to Sam Kedem's. I chose that farm because this year I wanted to go to an organic farm for my pick-your-own experience. Sam Kedem's was a really relaxed place that basically just set us free in the field to pick wherever we wanted. Plus, the berries were scrumptious!

Since the berries are smaller and we were going at the end of the season, we had to work hard for our yield. My goal was around 13 pounds but after about 7 pounds, we ran out of time and had to get going. I left with more than just my berries, though. I also scored some honey, dehydrated strawberries, cherry tomatoes, a bell pepper and my mom bought me a perennial flower for my rain garden from the farm store. I was hoping to buy some eggs but they said their chickens were lazy and didn't lay any eggs that morning.

Even though I picked less than I would have liked, I still had enough to make a few recipes I've had my eyes on. I started by macerating lemons and strawberries in sugar overnight to make a strawberry lemon preserve that tastes like 2/3 strawberry jam and 1/3 lemon marmalade.

The timing for this strawberry yogurt cake recipe was perfect. When served with a dollop of plain yogurt, it feels reminiscent of a sophisticated strawberry shortcake.

I also have been wanting to try the Strawberry Jam with Thai Herbs from Canning for a New Generation, but I didn't have enough left for a full batch. To satisfy the craving, I followed the Quick Strawberry Jam recipe from Put 'em Up! and stirred in thai basil, spearmint and cilantro after the jam came off of the burner.

The herbed version is on the left and the lemon is on the right. The verdict at my house is that I love them both and Paul only likes the lemon one. I'd like to know your thoughts and experiences with mixing herbs into jam. Have you done it? Did it keep well? Did the flavor get stronger as it sits? What flavor combinations sound good to you?
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