Friday, July 29, 2011

Farmday Friday! (two in a row!)


Today I want to talk about fruit.  It's in season.  All of it.  Right now.  And I have harvesters syndrome.

It's that tiny little itch in your hands when you know something is in season and that it won't taste nearly as wonderful in winter as it will fresh picked from a local pickery-so you have to pick or buy trying.

Peaches, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, cherries, strawberries (which I missed; tthhbbpt) cantaloupe-oh dear.  Then what?  They sit in the fridge while I bide my time waiting for the time to have the plethora of processing madness.  Sometimes they get moldy.  But hey, it's jam right?  Or pie.  Or crisp.  Or in my case, nearly all three.  I didn't do the pie.

But I did make this!  This yumminess is my own concocted jam.  Haven't tasted it yet but it sounds good!

This is what it looked like before I smashed it up.  Ranier cherries, blackberries, peaches and a sconch of whiskey

I love fruit.  I think I inherited that love from my grandmother.  She was an equal opportunity fruit lover.  She grew strawberries and blackberries and I can't eat a peach without thinking of her.  Her bowels must have been so clean they sparkled.

Fruity goodness is fun to play with.  Looks like I need to go buy more peanut butter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Farmday Friday!!! Yay!

For this fun-filled Farmday Friday I want to talk about laundry.

(dead silence)

Ok c'mon.  Laundry is not so bad is it?  The washing, air drying, the folding and ironing.  All so you can have clean, nice looking things on your back.  It's the epitome of having something to show for all your hard work at the end of a day.

Recently my husband decided he had too many clothes (he has about 5 times more than I do!) so he's packing up the excess for later usage and he's only leaving out the amount of clothes that he can readily wash by  hand using the brand new wash board he made for himself.
*sigh* My Hero......................

Also heroic is he's using the soap I made a year or so ago from scratch.  

Good 'ol fashioned lye soap and you know what, he's really enjoying it.  See why I married this man?  So here's to laundry the old fashioned way.  No wonder in Little House on the Prairie they wore the same dresses all the time.  Variety was not the spice of life, it was a waste of good money that could be spent on things that mattered like, oh ya know....FOOD.  Oh how spoiled we are today. 


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Experimental Kitchen

I love experimenting in the kitchen.  Baked goods, canning, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Opening up my cupboards with a mind towards creativity makes me feel happy.  I swear I can hear a set of old rusty gears in my head get greased up and start running smoothly.  Yesterday I decided to try a new way of making jam.

Elderberries from last years bout of jam making
I love Jam.  Last year I made: blackberry, black raspberry, peach, cherry, summer berry (cherry, blueberry, serviceberry), red raspberry and elderberry.  It makes great gifts and even if you don't do PBJ you can put it on ice cream add it to seltzer for a summery drink, use it to make thumb print cookies or make breakfast bars with a thin layer of it spread in between layers of crumbly crusts.

So the thing with jam is pectin.  Pectin is what makes it firm up.  You can also use gelatin (but knowing that it comes from boiled animal parts that I didn't boil yourself might hold you up on that as it does me)  Some fruit have plenty of their own pectin, but unless you boil the crap out of them, that pectin isn't truly released so buying some pectin to add helps things along.  However, I've been pretty convinced that there had to be a better way of making jam that didn't require the expense (you get two lousy envelopes of liquid pectin for $4) of pectin.  I was right.

MaryJane's Farm sells what they call ChillOver(c) and though I'd love to give her the business, I'm a little too self-sufficient for that.  I knew my local bulk food store sold agar powder so yesterday I bought some and used it to make Black raspberry jam.  At $4 for 1.5 ounces, it may seem expensive but I only used 1/2 tsp for this jam!  It's going to last for many more than two lousy batches.  And wow - it turned out great!

Now I remembered agar from my days as an assistant in the plant pathology labs where I went to school.  It solidified the gels for the petrie dishes for us to grow the spores of fungus on for our research (yeah, dry; see why I'm not into that anymore? Though it was a great experience).  Agar pronounced AH-ger comes from an algae with hard gelling properties.  It's totally plant derived.  The woman at the store had no suggestions on how to use it, the internet had limited resources as well (believe it or not) but I did find some info here which gave me some clues.

Basically, I weighed the berries, used half their weight in sugar, mashed 'em up good(no heat), stirred it vigorously to extract as much juice as I could, (med-low heat) added about 1/2 tsp of lime juice, simmered very low for 4 mins, added 1/2 tsp of agar powder and let it simmer for about 5 mins. (being careful, with less liquid it could burn easily so I stirred it a lot).  You'll notice I didn't let it sit over night as the link above instructs.  I ended up with something more like preserves which is just what I wanted and this morning I had it on toast; yum!

With a cuppa tea of cours
Between the lessened amount of sugar and the lessened boiling time this made phenomenal stuff!! The jars still sealed up as they would with any cooked jam and this small batch was perfect since all those jams I made last year?  Yeah, I still have almost all of them!  Except the elderberry and black raspberry - they were amazing and were eaten first.  My only concern is that the shelf life on this jam may not be quite so long since there's less sugar, which is a preservative.  Guess smaller batches are the way to go!  Give agar a try!  And remember not to take your kitchen too seriously.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Blogging Gods

Surely they are against me?  But maybe they changed their minds.....because my computer is now up and working thanks to a cooling mat fan thingy underneath.  Old laptop.  Better than none.  I refuse to blog from my iPhone=iStrain!!  Big time.

Sew I'm sewing again.  I'm working on making a shirt.  I have very few tops in my summer wardrobe and on a whim, I laid out a tank I like on top of some light and airy white fabric I have a ton of (thanks mom) and started cutting.  Fearless?  Yes.

firstshirt; no pattern - it will have tab type straps that button on.
I was talking with my husband about my mode of learning.  It seems no biggie to me but I guess most people might be scandalized by it or at least a little skeert.  You see I learn better from my own mistakes than I ever could from a pattern.  Oh sure, sure, I can make something using a pattern and if it were something truly important, I would.  But in my most fearless projects, if I screw them up, I kick myself so hard for the waste of time and materials - I learn the lesson very very well.  And then I start all over again.

I suppose it's human nature to shy away from difficulty, to go to classes, to closely follow patterns, lines etc.  But I challenge you to go the other direction.  That's what I keep doing in many aspects of my life.  If you expect me to go one way, I will make an immediate b-line in the opposite direction just to show you in the end, you cannot paint me in to a box, no way, no how. 

5am double rainbow with no storms in sight - the angle of the sun was 'just so'.  Ah.
I will waste my time, my money, my materials, my resources but learn the biggest lessons because of them and THAT IS LIFE.  Is it really a waste?  Nope. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Job = it's not your life

I have this theory (I love theories) that we are not supposed to make our job our lives but make living our jobs instead.  For the most part, I do a pretty good job of seeing life that way but once in a while I get stuck in a rut and it usually has something to do with an imbalance between what my life truly is (not my job) and what I'm doing with my life (nothing but working).

Recently I stopped doing everything I love.  I stopped weaving, spinning, reading, sewing, cooking.....just about everything I enjoyed while home I gave up on.  I would go to work.  Come home.  Flop on the couch and watch a movie.  Get up.  Make a pbj sammich for dinner or a combo of different badforme munchies.  Flop on the couch.  Watch another movie.  Pass out at 10:30pm but barely able to enunciate by 9:30pm.

What a life(job).

I was not living.  I was in a rut.  And I am lucky enough to have a husband who is a crow bar.

That man is like a living shaft of truth in all situations and though it causes some upset to both of us, I wouldn't have it any other way.  So I came back from my holiday with the mantra: "Detach, invest less, be cynical" running through my head.  And it's working.  Caring too much is a big pitfall of mine and doing it at work is just asking for your superiors to suck you down like a long, long, long piece of spaghetti until you're all gone and there's nothing left of you but some starchy water sloshing around on the plate, making the sauce all runny.

Ew.  Who wants that?  So tonight I'm knitting, watching the last movie and sending it back to Netflix, I've cancelled Netflix so tomorrow........well that's exciting.  Maybe I'll actually do some sewing.  Welcome back farmgirl.  Welcome back to the land of the living.