Berry Delicious

Ah summer. The sun is shining and berries are ripening everywhere. Even my first-year blueberry bushes are bearing big sweet fruit! I don’t think I’ll be getting enough fruit at any time this summer to do anything but graze and enjoy, but since blueberries are one of Boy’s favorite fruits, I decided I ought to make a good blueberry jam. I’m a bit odd when it comes to blueberries; Fresh or frozen, they are up in my top ten favorite fruits, but cooked, there is something about the way the flavor changes that I usually can’t stand. The goal here is to come up with a blueberry jam that I’ll eat too. For those of you who don’t care for the narrative, the recipes are at the bottom.

On a quick trip to the grocery store I got lucky and found big bags of blueberries for only a dollar each and I quickly picked up about 4 quarts worth of berries, thinking I’d make the Boy something delicious. At home I tragically discovered a jam jar shortage meaning I wouldn’t be able to make all the jam I meant to. Two and a half quarts of berries went into the freezer for later use and one and a half went into a stock pot along with a pint of frozen cranberries and a quart of sugar. At this point I had a moment of panic because it looked like I’d added way too much sugar even though I’d done my research and confirmed how much sugar I wanted to use, so if it looks like you berries are disappearing under and snowy avalanche of white sugar, don’t freak out. Do what I did and add about half a cup  of water. This added just enough liquid to saturate the sugar without making the pot soupy. I zested a lemon into the pot as well, stirred well, and left them all to macerate for an hour or so.

Macerate. Macerate. Macerate. What is maceration and why do we do it? Maceration is the process of softening or breaking down a fruit using a liquid. In the case of fresh fruit, it is it’s own liquid, drawn out with the help of a sugar. This makes the jam more flavorful and gives it a more even texture without having to cook it for a long time. After macerating for an hour or more most of the sugar should have dissolved. My liquid was still a bit grainy, but not to worry.

Over medium high heat the remaining sugar quickly dissolves and the berries begin to burst. Be careful to watch your pot though as these berries really like to froth up and can even boil over. Take a wild guess how I found that out.

Add pectin once your fruit has come to a boil then simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add a pat of butter to reduce foam, or skim it off. I didn’t bother this time since it seemed to settle out with a little patience. Once you jam has simmered for long enough, fill it into 16 four ounce sterile canning jars and process in a boiling water bath. The four ounce jars only need 5 minutes in the boiling bath, but half pint and pint need 10 minutes. I had one pint jar full that wouldn’t fit in the canner, so I decided to inversion can. It is something I have been doing my whole life either for small batches or for the jar that won’t fit in the bath. Important is just to keep these jars in the fridge instead of on the shelf. However this method isn’t recommended for putting up jams because it isn’t as clean or effective. Case in point would be the afore mentioned jar which burst the ring right off the moment I tried to turn it over. Since the glass was in tact, I was able to save most of the jam and decided to make ice cream with it. For the ice cream, I creamed together one egg plus a yolk and half a cup of sugar and a pinch of salt then slowly whisked in 2 cups of heavy cream. I dropped in a split open vanilla bean and slowly heated these over medium-low heat, constantly stirring. Eventually as the custard came closer to a simmer it became thicker, though more like the texture of a rich soup than on true egg custard. I poured this into a tupperware and set it in the fridge for about 2 hours to cool. I probably should have waited even longer, but I was impatient. Into the ice cream maker went the cooled custard (minus the vanilla bean which I popped in my mouth to suck on while I waited) and about half the jam. As the ice cream started thickening, I added some fresh blueberries from my bushes and blackberries that needed to be used up. Twenty minutes later there was ice cream! Sure I could eat it now, but I wanted blueberry-cranberry swirls too! In the same tupperware I used to chill the custard earlier, I layered ice cream and jam and put the whole thing back into the freezer for half an hour.

Then, voila! Swirled berry ice cream!

Blueberry Cranberry Jam

Yields 7 pints of jam Ingredients:

  • 6 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2c. water (optional)
  • 1 package pectin

In a large stock pot, combine berries, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add water if your sugar is dry and white. Macerate for 1-2 hours. Set on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the pot does not bubble over. When fruit mixture comes to a boil, add pectin and simmer for 15-25 minutes. In this time, sterilize jars and lids and bring canning bath to a boil. Fill jars and process for 5 minutes for 4oz jars and 10 minutes for 8-16oz. jars. Cool and confirm the seals then jars may be stored at room temp for 1 year.

Berry Swirl Ice Cream

Yields 1 quart ice cream Ingredients:

  • 2c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 yolk
  • 1/2c. granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2c Blueberry Cranberry Jam
  • 1/2 pint fresh berries (optional)

In a cold saucepan cram together yolk, egg and sugar. Split open vanilla bean lengthwise and add to pot along with cream. Turn on low heat and stir constantly heating liquid until runny custard forms. Scrape vanilla bean into the custard and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. MAKE SURE YOUR ICE CREAM MAKER BOWL HAS BEEN IN THE FREEZER FOR AT LEAST 48 HOURS! Churn custard and 1c. jam in the ice cream maker for 20 minutes or until the right consistency is reached. Then, in a tupperware layer ice cream with remaining jam and freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Green and Growing

I’ve been incredibly busy these past months. Between finals, keeping up with my garden, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, I’ve been quite neglectful of my blog. I’ve been growing and planting and harvesting and replanting so much. In fact I have had more plants than space lately and expanded my collection of pots substantially from the original 5 to over a dozen, not to mention the now crowded strip along the driveway.

Let’s see whats in the container garden here.

Fava Beans

‘Blue Lake’ Bush Bean

‘Golden Sweet’ Snow Pea

‘Sugar Ann’ Snap Pea

Old Spice Sweet Pea

Nasturtium

‘Little Fingers’ Carrot

‘May Queen’ Butterhead Lettuce

European Red Lettuce

Rainbow Chard

Wild Arugula

‘Chiogga’ Beet

‘Bulls Blood’ Beet

Russian Kale

Spinach

‘Sunshine Blue’ Blueberry

‘Misty’ Blueberry

Spanish Lavender

‘Love Lies Bleeding’ Amaranth

‘Ace’ Tomato

‘Everbearing’ Strawberry and ‘Sequoia’ Strawberry

Japanese Indigo

Black Salsify

Zucchini Squash

Blue Borage

Red Currant

‘Black Oil’ Sunflower

‘Yellow Sweet’ Onion

‘Belgian White’ Leek

White Alyssum

Blue Thimble Flower

California Poppy

Quinoa

Potato (various)

‘Pink Beauty’ Radishes

‘Bee Bliss’ Sage

Herbs: Moroccan Green Mint, Onion Chives, Thyme, Rosemary, Greek Oregano, Cilantro, Italian Sweet Basil, Culinary Sage, Lemongrass

Other yummies and pretties I have no photos of: Italian Lacinato Kale, ‘Japanese Black Trifele’ Tomato, Volunteer Tomatoes, California Wild Fuchsia (Clarika Eligans), California Lupin, Giant Mystery Lily, White Cala Lily, Pinot Noir Grape, multi-flower mystery iris, and several more!

Here fishy!

I really loved Sesame Street when I was little and a little part of me still does. This particular clip has stuck with me over the years, much like the two aliens (yup yup yup) and the tap-dancing snufalufagus.

Now, I  live out those Sesame Street musings with Kitty Sharkey at Lake Temescal in the Oakland Hills and after nearly half a dozen trips to the water with her, I finally had my first catch!

Who knew a little fish could be such a pig!

This greedy little sucker swallowed two lures and hooks and tangled the lines, but that just meant a sure catch. We spend almost all day on the lake and brought enough fish home for a dinner for four with creamed leeks and roasted potatoes with rosemary. We even came up with a complimentary cocktail!

Homemade feasts are always so satisfying.

Rainbow Tammy

  • 2oz. Gin
  • 2oz . sweet lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 tangerine (quartered)
  • 2 tsp. lavender blossoms
  • Tonic water

In a shaker, muddle tangerine and lavender. Add ice, gin, sweetened lime, and vermouth and shake thoroughly.  Strain through cheesecloth or a tea strainer into a chilled glass with a little ice and fill off with tonic. Garnish with a tangerine twist.

Sweet and tangy and quite refreshing!

**ANNOUNCEMENT: Look out for a guest post by my partner, Colin, coming up on April 11th.**

Check out whats going on over on my Etsy!

As promised, I posted four new hats for sale today! I hope you love them. I’m also taking custom orders and have already filled two orders that the clients have been positively thrilled with! Click images to go straight to the listings.

Meer is inspired by the spirit of the sea and was created with intention to invoke the spirits of the west, of fluidity, memory and emotion.

Silvan hearkens to the spirits of the wood and was created with intention to invoke the spirits of the north, of earth, stability, fertility and growth.

For more listings go to peculiarpurls.etsy.com

Another Warming Soup

This recipe is one which I came up with last fall and absolutely loved! I originally posted it at the WildWoodYarn blog, but felt it was so good that it merited reposting here. It’s a deliciously filling soup that warms all the way through without needing the heat of spicy peppers. It could make up to make 8 servings, but I went back for seconds and it vanished more quickly than expected because it was just so damned delicious and I laid on the couch after dinner rubbing my overfull tummy. This makes a fantastic full meal for 4-6 or a delicious, warm appetizer for 8.

Maize

Vegetarian Corn Chowder
Cook Time: 1.5-2hrs
Ingredients
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 large carrot, chopped small
2 medium leeks, chopped
2 stalks celery, minced
4 yukon potatos, cubed small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushroom
1 can sweet yellow corn, undrained
2 quarts, chicken or veggie stock
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup white wine
3 tablespoons butter
ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
shredded cheddar, sour cream, and/or chopped chives for topping
Directions
Slowly sweat onion, garlic, leek, and celery with butter in a soup pot. Once onions are translucent and soft, add mushroom and carrots continue to cook them on very low heat until everything is sweet and starts to caramelize. Add corn, potato, stock and wine then simmer on low heat for 45-90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the potato cubes are soft and falling apart, ladle about half the soup into a blender or food processor and pulse until it has a smoothe and creamy texture. Return the blended soup to the pot and stir in half and half, paprika, salt and pepper. Continue to Simmer on low heat 15 minutes then serve in deep bowls. Top your soup with sour cream, shredded cheese, and chives or if you’re looking for a stronger smokey flavor and do eat animal, add bacon crumbles.

Warm Up for Winter: Lets practice feeding an army

We'll call that an intermission

…and now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The Northern California Rennaissance Faire was fantastic. I have been spending all my weekends there since the end of August before the gates even opened to the enthusiastic throngs of patrons. In that time I was building the village of Willingtown, buffing up on my Elizabethan language skills and mostly shepherding children in and out of the Funny Farm petting zoo. Now, a week after our final days there, our apartment still hasn’t recovered, but I’m starting to get back into my normal routine, and that means recipes!

With holidays approaching and family visits already being planned, it’s important to load up on recipes that can feed a big group without breaking the bank or a sweat. This chili is an old standby that I learned to make from my mother when I was in elementary school. She never wrote down a recipe, but I learned to make it by feel and have since then taken down the recipe. It takes time when you start with dry beans, but the actual work involved in making it is minimal and the results are woth the wait. Just beware, the batch size is rather hefty. We often brought it to potlucks because it is vegan yet tastes as hearty as any classic meaty chili so its sure to please anyone. It’s also delicious, filling and incredibly cheap to make bucket-loads of!

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups dry black beans soaked overnight
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups vegi broth
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatos
  • 1 can corn with liquid
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 onions
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 dried ancho chilis, chopped into 1cm squares
  • 2 dried chipotle morita peppers, ground (sub chipotle meco for more heat)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
Directions:
Rinse your soaked beans until the water runs clear. Then bring beans, water and broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are soft all the way through. Add more water if necessary to keep beans covered during this time. The liquid will reduce as it simmers. Coarsely chop onion and garlic and set in a shallow pan with the oil to slowly sweat over low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t burn. Once soft, add them to the beans and liquid. It doesn’t matter if the beans aren’t soft yet when you do this; the flavor will seep into the beans as they cook. Once the beans are soft, add the rest of the ingredients and allow the chili to simmer for an hour at least. The longer it can go, the better since the flavors need time to come out of the chilis pods and permeate the beans and corn. This is a relatively mild chili, though it may still have too much kick for some people. Leave out the seeds of the peppers for a milder batch or substitute the Chipotle Morita with Chipotle Meco for a spicier dish. For the adventurous, consider adding cayenne pepper or fresh jalapenos as a garnish.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and cornbread for 8 people.

Hearty Black Bean Chili and Cheddar Cornbread

The Cheddar Cornbread is a recipe I developed myself  from the ones published by Alton Brown and Epicurious. It is the most tender and moist cornbread I have ever had! I have the bad habit of not following recipes, which drives Colin nuts, but produces amazing results. I look at around a dozen different recipes for the same thing and then narrow it to the two of three best looking ones. Then I play with the proportions(and the ingredients I have available) until I find exactly the product I want. It’s an artistic take on what is science side of cooking.

Cheddar Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups corn meal
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon gluten
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup full fat yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 can of corn, lightly drained
  • 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter for greasing the pan
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix with a fork. Make a well in the center of the bowl and crack both eggs into it. Add, cream, yogurt, and corn to the well and wisk liquids with your fork, slowly incorporating the flour mixture. Chop green onions and cube cheese into 1/2 in. pieces. Set 1/4 cup of cheese bits aside to top bread with.  Add remaining cheese and green onion into the batter and incorporate fully. It should have the same texture as thick pancake batter so that it scoops easily, but still flows. Grease an 8×12 or 9×9 baking pan and pour batter into the pan. Sprinkle reserved cheese pieces on top evenly. Bake for 18-20 minutes until bread has risen and top is golden brown. Serve warm with Black Bean Chili or as a stand alone snack.