Saturday, September 10, 2011

why does September always kick my butt?

In my mind, September has always been the "start" of the new year.  This is surely a function not only of the change in weather, but the agriculturally-based beginning of a new school year.  Where we live right now, my September starts mid-August, as the boys head back to school on 15 August.

I have still been canning, just too tired to tell anyone about it LOL.  Here, let me show you!
Ginger Carrot-Radish Slaw
This is amazingly delicious.  I found a very simplified version of the recipe in Put 'em Up!:  A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton.  The "slaw" is essentially a refrigerator pickle, using a vinegar/sugar solution and three days time in the icebox to turn into the amazing snack I put brightly on my place next to a few slices of lift.  I have found, in making this several times now, that ginger is a PITA to grate.  I can see why the traditional sharkskin ginger graters would be useful due to the incredibly fibrous nature of the plant.  Has anyone ever made paper out of this stuff?

Apple Pear Preserves

I kind of winged this recipe, using Ellie Topp's Small-Batch Preserving as a guide.  It smells like September to me and tastes divine on dark, dense, whole grain toast.   I remained confounded as to why my jams were becoming thicker than it seemed they should be.  I had never had problems with jams getting, well, jammy before.   Days later, my questions would be answered!

true small-batch preserves - cherries and peaches

I had some fruit beginning to over-ripen on my counter and, inspired by a post by Food In Jars' Marisa and kitchengadgetgirl's Let's Get Sticky post, I took the plunge, chopping up counter fruit and measuring it out.  I had two cups of peaches and one cup of chopped and pitted cherries.  After staring them down for a moment, I decided to not be brave and mix the fruits, although I am fully aware I could have done so and had a great jam.  Instead, I processed them separately, boiling them in a non-stick skillet with an approximately 2:1 fruit:sugar ratio. Two jars of peach and one of cherries later - it worked!  Which is amazing, and I think, in part because I gave up trying to reach the gel point of 220F.  Just as well, because I made my greatest discovery in the world of canning at 7000 ft...the gel point happens at a lower temperature as you go higher in altitude.  Can you picture me banging my head into the desk (figuratively, of course!) repeatedly?  I have known for years, after living in Wyoming and Colorado, that the boil point was lower.  It simply never occurred to me to adjust for gel point.  No wonder my non-pectin jams were too thick!  So thank you, kitchengadgetgirl, for that link at the end of your post.  My jams will be much better for it while I reside in the Rockies!

I have to tell you, a few days later, I met up with some non-cooking-geek friends and mentioned this (to me) monumental discovery...only to have 6 sets of confused and mildly concerned eyes turn to me in unison over their salt-rimmed margarita glasses.  ::Ahem::

Most recently, I have decided it is time to try the sauerkraut again.  I read Wild Fermentation for some inspiration and went to work on a head of cabbage.  This time, I sliced it thinner, added apple to the mix, reduced the salt slightly, and stuck it on the stairs to the basement where it will be cooler than my kitchen and dark.  I also used a sandwich bag filled with water to ensure everything stayed under brine.  All is quiet so far, but it has only been two days.
sauerkraut - round two
While reading Wild Fermentation, I developed a craving for the sour pickles of my youth.  You know the kind - deep in a barrel, make your tongue curl, crispy sour whole pickles?
sour pickles with dill and garlic
These brine-covered babies joined the 'kraut on the stairs, using the same water-in-a-sandwich bag sink method.  I had to divide it into two half-gallon jars as I lack, for the moment, a gallon-sized container.

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