Thursday, October 27, 2011

Snow Day for Moms!

Rumor has it you can make jellies from peach peelings and pits, so I had to try it out.
Happiness is a day of picturesque snowfall that covers the grass but leaves the roads clear so the kids go to school!  I did some deep cleaning in the kitchen and finally got to those peeled peaches, peels, and pits that had been residing in my refrigerator since Sunday.  Thank goodness for Fruit Fresh and lemon juice!

After boiling for 30-45 minutes until the skins are somewhat translucent, I strained the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and several layers of cheesecloth.

I boiled and strained on Tuesday night while making dinner, putting the whole mess in the refrigerator overnight so it could continue dripping.  What you see here is about one cup of juice.  There was not enough peach on the peels to rate any kind of food mill action so they were tossed out.

Wednesday, I looked at several jelly recipes and decided that one cup of juice plus 2 tablespoons of pectin and one scant cup of sugar would work.  I hate cleaning candied fruit juice off my glass top stove (hate my glass top stove, too, but that's another story!), so I used a pot far larger than would first come to mind.  Thank goodness for that, because memory served me right and it did boil up pretty spectacularly.  I brought the juice and pectin to a boil, then added the sugar and brought it back to a boil for one minute before pulling it off the stove to a hot pad on the counter.  Last time I left jam sitting on the burner, it burned - have I mentioned I hate glass top stoves?

Excuse the blur, I just had to show the color!

The end result was three 4 oz jars of a mild-tasting peach pit jelly, exactly half the amount of peach jam created from the same batch.

3 cups of chopped peaches, scant 3 cups of sugar, two tablespoons of lemon juice, boil 'til it looks right
I've made the pectin-less peach jam before, in a more peach preserves form than jam. Same skillet technique, only this time, knowing I was not going to try to reach an impossible gel point!  I could just eat it with a spoon right out of the jar!

One peach pit jelly already in sample mode

After a successful jam session, I shared my thrifty preservation with a friend who asked innocently, "Aren't peach pits poisonous?"  This sent me racing to both my garbage can and Google where I found that, Yes, Virginia, peach pits do indeed contain a form of cyanide.  Sigh.  Fortunately, a careful investigation revealed no cracks or loose pits were involved in this canning experiment.  For the record, I would have automatically tossed them had they been cracked or broken, but it never hurts to be sure!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sticks on a Plane!

I enjoy knitting, the act of taking sticks and string and turning them into something beautiful.  There are so many beautiful yarns and needles that look like pieces of art.  So many patterns.  So many combinations of yarn, needles, and much of my knit time looks like this.

Piles of yarns and patterns, rummaged through randomly until I settle on something
I scroll through Ravelry, I sift over mountains of magazines and pattern books from my home and the library, I...procrastinate.  Until finally, I pick up sticks and work on something!

I have given up finding a new pattern and instead gone for the instant gratification - such that it is with sock knitting - of using a known pattern that will yield wearable socks!
I am fascinated by the mechanics of making a sock and have successfully completed 2 pairs.  Of course, the first pair had to be given away to a friend with slightly larger feet because I cannot measure properly.  And the second were resumed after a 6 mos break, which meant that I managed to make one sock a different size than the other, but they both still fit!  This time, I am fool proof.  I am making a different version of the second sock pattern - Ann Budd's His and Her socks - in the size that fits me best - child's size for my tiny feet.  I plan on wearing them before Thanksgiving!

sticks on a plane!
Thank goodness TSA does not view knitting needles as deadly weapons!  Despite space limitations flying coach, I did manage to knit up a respectable length of sock while airborne.  The flight attendant behind me was also knitting during her spare time on one leg of the flight.  I was even afforded some extra minutes of non-flying knit time while we were trapped in the plane on the tarmac for 15 or 20 minutes.  They were looking for an FAA-approved nut for the left wing.  We were in shouldn't have taken that long to find!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pre-vacation preservation

The rescued harvest from yesterday's early snow

A counter full of produce and we leave in 36 hours
But already, I have made my first Sweet Green Tomato Pickles!  I've enjoyed fried green tomatoes before but pickling them is something completely new and different.  I used Lianna Krissoff's recipe in Canning for a New Generation, with one significant modification - I traded out an overnight soak in pickling lime for Ball's Pickle Crisp.  Honestly, I'd have happily used the lime but I can't find it anywhere.
sliced heirloom tomatoes from my garden
Like many of the canning and preserving recipes I have followed, I was amazed at how simple it actually was when you got right down to it.  I sliced tomatoes and removed woody cores - hence the PacMan look of a few of them - while watching the morning news, mixed up the witches' brew these Sisters of Elphaba were headed into, and prepped my canning supplies.
don't laugh, organization is good!

The slices bubbled away for 15 minutes while my sinuses cleared every time I stirred the pot.  Six pints and 25 minutes later (10 for processing plus altitude adjustment)...
I sampled a few extra bits from the pot - delicious!
I think lack of time dictates the red peppers will be diced or sliced and frozen in one cup packages.  How handy is it that they don't need to be blanched first, yes?!  The herbs will be a bit trickier as I don't seem to have ice cube trays to freeze their pureed goodness into.  That's the bad part about moving so much - sometimes useful items get donated away because they are not useful right now.

Sour pickle and Sauerkraut update - the kraut has been in the refrigerator for a week or so and tastes perfectly sauerkraut-y.  The pickles make the stairs headed to the basement, their fermenting hideout, smell divine and they do seem to be successfully souring, as occasional slices confirm.  Two pickles have bit the dust because they had moldy white stuff ON them and  I just could not get a clear read on what that meant.  I know the yummy ones from the big barrels of cloudy brine I ate in my childhood did not have moldy white stuff on them, though, so off they went. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

rounding out September

Cumin and Paprika Pickled Turnips, Chinese Plum Sauce, and Ajvar
So back a week or so ago, I pickled some turnips with paprika and cumin.  I ended up using ground cumin seed instead of the required cumin seed, so cross your fingers!  I halved the recipe from Canning For a New Generation and that all seemed to work out.  My husband had the day off and was a bit put off by the overwhelming vinegar and  cumin smell!

Next up, I finally was able to make that Chinese Plum Sauce I have been wanting to try, having acquired some star anise from Savory Spice Shop earlier in the week.  I copied this recipe down from Put 'Em Up and did note that while I was to "discard the star anise," nothing was said about fishing out the skins.  The immersion blender did not fully puree the skins and the whole affair was somewhat thicker than I'd have thought but it tastes marvelous so there you have it!

Pureed eggplant, peppers and onions for Ajvar

after adding the apple cider vinegar - no, I did not fully peel the peppers, the bitter doesn't bother me and I was in a bit of a hurry :)

Finally, I made some Ajvar from Urban Pantry by Amy Pennington.  I need to get this book for its varied recipes and unique ideas.  Ajvar is a tasty Serbian relish made up of roasted eggplant, roasted peppers, and onions and works well as a dip, a sandwich spread, a pasta sauce, or something to slide in next to your eggs if you roll that way.  I used one single hot pepper which added a fair amount of heat, so the next batch I make up will have only sweet peppers.  It was very simple and something I foresee endless variations on.  Pennington's version is definitely a short cut to what I later looked up online.

Good thing I picked all my green tomatoes last night - this is my back yard this morning!