Keeping Up With Putting By

I love preserving foods. It’s a meditative process for me that brings me so much joy in the process alone and then I’m rewarded for the energy I’ve expended with tasty treats! This weekend I have made jam, jelly, curd, kombucha, and more. It’s been a weekend of doing what I love despite hardships and putting aside my worries for just a bit in favor of some really rewarding and happy time.

Left to Right: Vanilla Pear Butter and Lavender Quince Jelly

Saturday was spent with the son of my gracious hosts jamming and curding (if it wasn’t a word before, it is now). With him as my diligent assistant, we managed to make 4 separate batches of delicious sweet preserves. First among them was a quince jelly scented with lavender. It’s a gorgeous rosy red and smells divine! Next was a batch of pear and apple butter with candied ginger and vanilla bean and two different batches of citrus curd. The old standby is a lime curd for which I used the USDA recommended recipe which is shelf-stable. The newcomer is adapted from the shelf-stable recipe and uses grapefruit zest and some of the ruby grapefruit juice mixed with mostly high-acid lemon juice. The grapefruit flavor is delicate and almost floral, but the lemon brings enough tartness to balance the sweetness of it. I’m a fan and am definitely going to make this recipe again! Next time I may even share it with you, but I want to be sure of it’s stability before I do.

LIMES!!!

While slaving in the kitchen, we broke into my new kombucha made with black tea and honey. I’ve heard many times that kombucha won’t consume honey, or that it will kill the SCOBY. However, my boss/coworker who generously gave me this new pet has always fed it with local honey (instead of sugar as is usually recommended) and the nuttiness and caramel notes in her kombucha are definitely something special, so I figured I would go ahead and do the same. I was anything but disappointed. In fact I was thrilled and drank up almost a quart of it across the day! One cupful even got a generous splash of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice that would otherwise have gone to waste. Yum!

Grapefruit Curd

Sunday was just as productive and fun. My place of employment hosts a lot of amazing classes and as an employee I get to attend them whenever there is an open space. Yesterday’s awesome class was Advanced Fermentation taught by Nishanga Bliss, author of Real Food All Year. Nishanga is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese medical practitioner AIMC Berkeley and is about to complete a doctorate in Nutrition. Wholesome holistic living seems to be her passion and it was a pleasure to learn a bit from her.

Along with a short presentation about the history, health benefits and biology of fermentation, Nishanga shared a few really spectacular recipes with the class. We got to taste a few yummy ferms from her kitchen and started two of our own: Bok Choy  and Butternut Kimchi, and Ginger Bug.

Feeding my new pet.

The simpler of the two is a Ginger Bug (also sometimes called a Ginger Beer Plant) which is a wild yeast starter made from shredded organic ginger root and sugar water. This starter can be used for making all kinds of delicious sodas and fizzy juices. To make your own Ginger Bug, grate  two about tablespoons of organic ginger with the skin on. In a 16oz jar or larger mix the grated ginger with an equal amount of sugar and about a cup of water.  Leave your bug in a spot that stays between 68 and 78 degrees. Every day for the next week add more ginger and sugar until bubbles form. This is a sign that you starter is strong enough for you to start making sodas with it, and you’ll want to put it in the refrigerator unless you plan to use it and feed it right away. Even with refrigeration though, you will need to feed it every week.

I am just so excited to be getting my groove back. I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.

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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!

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.

 

 

Jammin’

Two weeks ago I mentioned gathering huckleberries in the Oakland Hills. I’m happy to say that despite the injury, our bounty went into a beautiful product. Kitty Sharkey and I made jam from free nectarines given to me by a booth at the farmers market and our foraged berries. Below is a recipe you can use!

Foraging for Huckleberries

Nectarine Huckleberry Jam

9 1/2 cups  coarsely sliced nectarine

2 cups huckleberries

1/4 cup lemon juice

6 cups sugar

2 packets Sure-Jell Pectin

(optional: 2 tbsp butter)

Huckleberry Bounty

Directions:

In a pot, heat nectarine pieces until soft and boiling. Add huckleberries, lemon juice, sugar  and pectin while stirring constantly. You can add butter to prevent scummy foam. Substitute blueberries if you do not have access to huckleberries. Bring the jam to a rolling boil (continues bubbling while you stir) and let it boil until the jam thickens on the back of a cold spoon. If you did not add butter, you will have a layer of scum at the top. Skim this off before processing for 20-25 minutes with the boiling water bath method.

 

The Melting Pot

Tip: This is a low-sugar recipe. If your jam doesn’t thicken, add more sugar and bring it back to a boil and check again. Most jam recipes call for at least as much sugar as fruit but I always find that to be too sweet and our Nectarine Huckleberry Jam thickened very well with only half the sugar.

Baked Tilapia and Citrus Fava Bean Salad

Sorry for the late post folks. I started classes a couple weeks ago and was studying for my first test when I realized that I had fallen behind on my blog. Luckily I have a delicious recipe that I’ve been wanting to share with you. The other night, I was walking through our Berkeley Bowl, the local independent grocery store when I got a craving for fish. The hot weather had me shying away from heavy foods, but I still wanted some protein, so I picked up some tilapia and fava beans to throw together a light and yet satisfying dinner. Though blood oranges are scarce this time of year, I had some in my fridge that needed to be used. You can easily substitute them with Valencia oranges, but avoid navel oranges as their uneven segments can be hard to supreme.

Citrus Fava Bean Salad

*Note: Make the salad first because it will take longer to prepare than the fish(done in under 20 minutes), which will get cold if you reverse the order.

Ingredients:

1lb fava beans
3 large blood oranges
1 grapefruit
½ red onion
5 sprigs cilantro
1 head butter lettuce

Directions:

1. Shell your fava beans, and par boil the beans. This only take a minute or two and you don’t want to overcook them. You just want to cook them long enough for the tough and bitter membrane around the beans to loosen and wrinkle. Remove the skins from the beans, and be careful not to crush them. Put the skinned beans into a salad bowl to cool and continue with the rest of the salad.

2. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the skin from the grapefruit, including all of the white pith and the outer membrane of the segments. Over the salad bowl with the fava beans, cup the fruit in your non-dominant hand and use the paring knife to cut the segments out of the membranes. drop the skinless segments into the bowl. Do this until you have nothing but the membrane in your hand. This method is called a supreme. Squeeze the remaining juice out of the membrane into a separate bowl and save it for the dressing. Repeat this step for the oranges as well.

3. Finely slice the red onion and mince the cilantro. Add these to the bowl.  Serve the mixture over butter lettuce and drizzle generously with the dressing below.

Blood Orange Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

½ c fresh blood orange juice
¼ c white vinegar
¼ c olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp honey
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp salt
zest of 1 orange

Directions:

Wisk together ingredients in a bowl or put them all in a jar to be shaken. I prefer the latter method, because then I can conveniently store the extra.

Baked  Tilapia

 

Preheat oven to 400°F

Ingredients:

1lb tilapia fillets (~4)
1 Meyer lemon
¼ tsp thyme
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cover two baking sheets in aluminum foil (to make clean up easier) spread olive oil evenly across both pans and lay out tilapia fillets evenly. Sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper, and thyme. Be careful not to over-salt and remember you can always add more after its cooked.

2. Thinly slice garlic and lemon. Spread the slices across tilapia and try to cover as much of the fish as possible. Make sure the garlic is underneath the lemon slices otherwise it will burn. I also coarsely chopped the rest of the red onion from the salad and dropped it on the tray to bake. Just an idea!

3. Bake the tilapia until the edges start to brown and crisp (about 5-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish).

 

I hope you enjoy the recipe in the hot summer days we’ve been having. I’m certain I’ll be making it again before too long!

Sweet Pickled Pearl Onions

A few weeks ago I learned to pickle quail eggs from Kitty Sharkey of Havenscourt Homestead. They turned out so well that I thought I might just try to put together something of my own.

I developed a delicious recipe for sweet pickled pearl onions which go well in salad or as a zesty side to sandwiches, burgers and barbecue. Best of all, they are super easy to make and I’ll tell you how!

Peel and trim 2-3 cups of red pearl onions. White pearl onions will work too but won’t be quite as sweet. Though I haven’t tried it, you could also coarsely chop 2 large onions. In a bowl, cover the peeled onions with boiling water and let them sit  for 5 minutes. Drain them and fill the onions into a jar or two.

In a non-reactive saucepan combine the following ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.

  • 1 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher or pickling salt
  • 1 cracked bay leaf
  • 2-3 large cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp. cracked pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Pour the brine over your filled jar(s) of onions without filtering out any of the spices and allow them to soak up flavor for at least 5 days before serving. They will keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 month.

If you would like to keep these for longer follow proper canning process as recommended by a reputable agency(USDA, FDA, National Center for Home Food Preservation, etc.) once you’ve filled the jars. If they are canned, they ought to keep for months and months.

Now, I’m going to go enjoy some of those onions!

*This entry also cross-posted to wildwoodyarn.blogspot.com