Monday, July 30, 2012

Jam Photo - Elephant Ear, Peach Rhubarb, Ozark & Nectarine Vanilla

Here's a photo of the most recent jams (left to right) - Elephant Ear Plum jam, Peach Rhubarb jam, Ozark Plum jam & Nectarine Vanilla jam.  YUM!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend Fun - Cards, Peaches, Plums & Husband

I love weekends like this past one.  It was full of all sorts of my favorite things & it got started bright & early on Friday.  Miss Mary & I made plans to leave at 7:30 a.m. on Friday to visit 2 scrapbooking stores as part of our Summer Passport event.  We paid $10 in early July & that gave us 20% off 8 different stores throughout New England.  We'd been to the first one on Thursday night when we took a Christmas in July class (4 GREAT cards) & now we were off to see 2 more stores.  Our destination was Absolutely Everything in Topsfield, but someone had suggested that we could stop at InkAboutIt during the same trip.  David (knowing traffic patterns) said that we should switch up our route so that we wouldn't be on 95 during rush hour (smart man!)  We had a delish breakfast & off we went.  We really were lucky as we arrived about 15 minutes before the store opened & marched in ready to shop.  The store has $1 Make n Takes & has them on Fridays during the summer.  We each made 9 cards & a bookmark.  Great deal!  After we left InkAboutIt we headed off to Absolutely Everything.  It really is a good thing that this store is 2 hours away.  I came home with all sorts of loot.  Put my 20% discount to good use & picked up some things on Clearance.
On Saturday morning I picked up DS at 7:15 (so that she could be back to work for 8:30) & we were off to the Farmers Market in Amherst.  This market is so well-organized & has such beautiful products.  I came home with 2 new plum varieties (Elephant Ear & Ozark) to turn into jam.  The Elephant Ear jam might rival Formosa for loveliest color, but I haven't tasted either & isn't that what jam is all about?  I'd been given rhubarb by a coworker so I knew that was still waiting to be used, too.  I also picked up a small box of tomato seconds & made 5 1/2 quarts of tomatoes for sauce before I was off to CT.
Right around lunchtime I left home to pick up my husband from the airport.  He'd been in Denver for a week & I missed him terribly.  His plane was a little late, but I was there with my sign (looking like a chauffeur).  My sign was made with the kids' magnetic letters & spelled out "My Fisherman".  There was only one passenger that fit that description.  I made 10 jars of Elephant Ear Plum jam & 11 jars of Ozark Plum jam after we returned from dinner. 
Today I went to the Hardwick Farmers Market & came home with nectarines & peaches.  I knew that I was going to make jam, but wanted to use up the rhubarb, too.  The internet came to my rescue (not an easy search but I'm persistent) with a recipe for Peach & Rhubarb jam. It had 1 flaw - it used powdered pectin & I only have liquid.  I followed the directions re: amounts of fruit & lemon juice & cooked & cooked.  I'd read in the description that the author added red food coloring because otherwise it was a yucky green color.  I couldn't imagine adding food coloring to my pristine jams, but thought I could add some of the Elephant Ear plums & it might be just enough to color it.  My next thought was that since I was using liquid pectin I was pretty sure that 2 c. of sugar wasn't going to be enough.  Hmmmm... what to do?  No easy answers for this question.  I went back to the Certo insert & looked at the quantities of peaches for peach jam & it was the same amount of fruit so I used the recommended amount of sugar & my fingers are crossed.  9 1/2 jars of Peach & Rhubarb jam are cooling on the center island.  I still have nectarines to use, but I've swapped Monday for Friday this week in terms of work so I might be able to get 1 batch of jam done in the afternoon.  Phew -- a lot of driving, a lot of shopping, husband home & jam, jam, jam ... What a wonderful life!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Prettiest Jam Award - Formosa Plum

If there were an award for "prettiest in show" for the jams I've made this summer tonight's bevy of beauties would win.  I made Formosa Plum jam tonight after work.  I'm exhausted from not sleeping well & getting up early to work a long day, but the 9 jars of jam on my counter soothe my weary soul.  Unfortunately, it's too late & they're too hot for me to take a picture.  I'll try to do it tomorrow.  It's been cloudy today so I'd really like some sun shining through the deep magenta hue of this jam.  Oh dear - waxing poetic over jam jars - again!  Time to go read for a little bit & then fingers crossed that I sleep better tonight.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly Recipe - from Cooks.Com


Printed from COOKS.COM

Read more about it at,181,152174-246203,00.html
Content Copyright © 2012 - All rights reserved.
Jar full of flower heads
Boiling water
Juice of 1 lemon
Certo or Sure Jell
3 c. sugar

For violet, lilac, rose petal, Queen Anne's Lace, milkweed, clover, elderberry, dandelion, carnation, peony or any edible sweet smelling flower: make an infusion by pouring boiling water over jar full of flower heads. (On roses or peonies cut off white parts on petals.) Let stand at least 5 hours or overnight. Strain and for every 2 1/2 cups of infusion add juice of lemon and 1 package of Sure Jell or Certo. Bring to boil, add 3 cups sugar and boil hard 1 minute. Place piece of flower in jar for identification (you may opt not to do this). Pour in jelly and seal. If you use honey instead of sugar, add 1 1/2 cups honey at the end because honey loses its nutritional value when boiled. This jelly is nice to serve with English muffins at tea or breakfast. It's fun to collect the blossoms on a pleasant summer walk.

Jam Update, the Hardwick Farmers Market & Greece

How's this for a visual temptation?  I always tell people that I make jam for 3 reasons.  1.  I love the idea of taking something that's produced locally in the summer & turning it into something that can be enjoyed in the middle of the winter.
2.  There's something very basic in making preserves.  It feels right in my soul & my kids all love my jam.
3.  They look like jewels in their jars when they're finished.  Note photo above.

This morning I got up & was mentally prepared to make seedless blackberry jam.  I have always avoided making anything seedless because it feels like you lose so much when you remove the seeds, but I had plenty of blackberries & thought I'd give it a try.  I had my ingredients on the counter & went to put the empty jars on a towel when I realized that I was going to be short jars for the jam-making that I wanted to do today.  So - after chatting with David - off I went to the store for more jars.  As I was checking out, the cashier asked if I made jam & if I grew my own fruit.  I told her that I do my best to make jam each week with whatever is available locally.  She asked if I'd been to the Hardwick Farmers Market.  I didn't even know that there was one.  She said it's on Sundays at 10 (actually starts at 11) & that there's a jam person there that makes unusual jams (including Queen Anne's Lace jam).  Since it was 9:45 I figured it was a sign from God & off I went.  Since the market opened at 11 I was about 40 minutes early, but sat under a tree & watched the vendors set up.  The Hardwick Farmers Market is quite impressive for a small town.  I left with:  3 varieties of garlic (the man that sells it is so pleasant), 2 bags of granola (how could I resist coconut pineapple & lemon blueberry?), a jar of maple sugar, fresh/local cheeses (Swiss & Barndance), peaches (I thought it was too early, but the heat is bringing in everything ahead of schedule), a lovely baguette from Rose32 [a European style bakery that doesn't know how to make a bad item], cookies from a gentleman that promised to make hermits for me next weekend & some 4 oz jars of jam (including Queen Anne's Lace).  I had a great chat with the jam couple.  We compared notes on the use of sugar, the price of fruit, the search for jelly jars, etc.  I know that I'll go back. 
When I came home I finished up the seedless blackberry jam & made peach jam.  For all of my family & friends that know me well -  I can hear you.  Yes - I don't like peaches.  I don't like the taste, the smell & particularly the feel of peaches.  Everything about them says "fuzz" to me.  But --- I know that people like peach jam & I'm willing to make it.  Want to know what kinds of jam I've made this summer?  Even if you don't - I'm going to tell you anyways since I'm so pleased with the variety ~
* Strawberry Rhubarb
*Red Currant Onion Chutney
*Blueberry Red Currant
*Raspberry Blueberry
*Black Raspberry
*Shiro Plum
*Yellow Raspberry
*Spiced Blueberry
*Triple Berry (Blueberry, Blackberry, Red Raspberry)
*Seedless Blackberry
Wondering what the country of Greece is doing in my title?  I was on Skype this morning with my husband & saw that one of my paper buddies from Greece was on, too.  We'd always said that we'd try to "talk" to each other live & it's never worked out.  I sent her a message & within minutes we were in each other's houses chatting like we'd just stepped apart the day before.  It was wonderful!  Zeffy is so amazingly talented & I've loved watching her on YouTube.  We exchange packages periodically, but this was so much more fun.  I would love to visit her in Athens & of course, she's more than welcome here.  In the meantime - this option worked out well for us.
I'm headed off to read The Paris Wife.  It's so good & since the house is quiet I can tuck under a blanket & get a few chapters read. Before I know it I'll be back to work so I want to make the most of being home for a few more hours.  Before I do that I'm off to track down a recipe for Queen Anne's Lace Jelly [will share if I find it].  Have a wonderful week & check back soon ~


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Early Morning at the Lake & 2 Travel Journals

This is my view when I open the door facing the Lake.  I would normally call it my "back door" since I enter the garage from one side of the house & this is the reverse side.  I've been told that when you face the water the side facing the water is always the "front".  The other issue here is that we have a walk-out basement so this view is standing on a deck about 12 feet off the ground.  It seems strange to say that I opened the "front door" when you'd have to climb stairs to get to it, but that's how it goes. 

Today (continuing the theme of jam-making with local fruits this summer) I'll be off to another Farmer's Market to look for treasures.  I found that there's a good website which lists the local farms & Farmer's Market info so I'll be culling that source for fruit in the next couple of months.

I also want to show you a couple of photos of the journals for Iceland that I made.  Since I seem to have added 1 photo - I'm going to try & add 2 more.  Let's see where they appear in this blog ~

I have to say that I love, love, love preparing travel journals for other people to take on trips.  It's so much fun thinking about how to add an extra location for a photo or journaling or to wonder how someone will take the framework that I've provided & make it reflect their memories.  I think that the most important thing to do when traveling is to pick up what seems to be the boring stuff.  The map from the hotel, business cards, a piece of hotel stationery, the punched subway card, a napkin from a wonderful bakery (go ahead & write on it about what you had to eat) even the barf bags from the airplane can be a surface to right notes on if you go through an amazing cloud formation on the plane. 
So how will you spend your weekend?  I'm off to the market ~

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15th - Raspberries & Black Raspberries & some cabbage, too

Yesterday morning I went off to the local Farmer's Market to see what treasures were available.  It was a disappointing trip re: fruit, but I came home with green & wax beans, zucchini & corn.  We made 1 more stop at another stand & found raspberries.  I was all set for the morning's jam-making. 
I came home & made raspberry jam & then a batch of blueberry/raspberry jam (enough of each to mix, but not enough of either to make a full batch of either one).  While on my way home I'd received a message from DS asking what I was doing for the afternoon.  For the 2 of us that translates to, "are we going looking for local fruit?"  She's recently taken on jelly-making like she was born to it.  She even went to Williams Sonoma to pick up some supplies & there was a jam-making class scheduled.  Of course - she participated in the class & learned some new tricks [she's going to use powdered pectin vs Certo, but I was taught using Certo & like the results so I don't think I'll change]. 
At 2 p.m. I picked her up & off we went.  We chat the entire time we're riding along.  We've decided that we both want to be in book group, but haven't found one so we've started our own.  Our first book was Midwife of Venice (we didn't love it) & we're now reading Paris Wife & we both like it.  We headed up route 116 & over to 47 (thinking Hadley farms).  Every farmstand we saw was advertising corn, beans & tomatoes.  We were on a mission to find fruit!  We kept heading north (riding next to the CT River) & found our way to Sunderland.  There was a farmstand that seemed to have more product than some of the others.  We pulled in & hit the lottery.  We found red raspberries, black raspberries & blackberries (all local).  They also had bing cherries [not local] & native cabbages the size of basketballs.  I came home with black raspberries (now 9 beautiful jars of jam) & a cabbage.  DS bought cartons of fruit & 6 big cabbages.  I couldn't imagine what her plans were.  I knew that my cabbage was destined for golumpkis (up at 6 a.m. this a.m. to get the pan made before the heat was up in the high 80s).  Hers were for the chickens.  Who knew that chickens LOVE cabbage?  She said that the big head of cabbage can be chopped up & her chickens would be happy birds.  She has 1 chicken that's "broody" right now & she's trying all of the farmer's tricks that she knows of.  If the chicken continues to want to sit on the eggs & not lay any more she'll have to be removed from the others until she gets back with the program.  Yesterday the silly bird was sitting on an egg-shaped rock, but wasn't being very pleasant to the other hens.  Elvis (rooster) took charge & made it clear that the girls needed to behave.  It's funny to watch - but only from outside of the fence.
Today I'll go off to play with paper at noon.  Our local scrapbook store has make n takes (pre-planned, pre-cut card kits).  At $2 each it's a good way to build up a stash of cards & I get to see some friends.  I don't go very often because of my schedule, but I've planned for it today.
My travel journals safely arrived in California & will be off to Iceland soon.  I hope to hear how the recipients liked them.  They are so much fun to make.
Let me know how you're spending your summer days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11 - Travel Journals beginning trip & jelly cupboards

The journals that I made are safely in California.  Next week they'll be on the way to Iceland.  When I lived in Ethiopia I had a little girl in my preschool class from Iceland.  We became close friends with her family & even visited them when they came to live outside of New York.  Asdis (pronounced oushdish) explained the naming pattern for people from Iceland.  I'll use my name to illustrate.  My father's first name was Robert.  If I lived in Iceland I would have been named Kimberly Robertsdottir.  My brother's name would have been Dean Robertson.  That's right - siblings that don't share a last name.  I found it very interesting & I thought about tying the "dottir" information into the journals - but decided that since they aren't my journals I have to let the new owners do what they want.  I hope that they add lots of Icelandic info to them.  I tucked in a stamp with a spoon, knife & fork.  I love to look back on the foods I've eaten when I travel.  Do you think they'll get the hint?
Changing topics - can someone chime in about jelly cupboards?  My friend that's just begun making jam/jelly is now interested in furniture to house her jarred jewels.  Is it jelly cupboards that sometimes have chicken wire or is that a pie safe? 
I'm off to wander around Pinterest for a few minutes.  4:45 a.m. comes early. 
Have a wonderful week ~

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 8th - Summer Bounty & an anniversary, too

Yesterday was our 5th wedding anniversary.  It was a quiet day & since it was Saturday - off to the Farmer's Market I went.  This week I was disappointed that there weren't any "new" fruits, but I'd seen a recipe in the Ball Blue Book for Blueberry Currant jam & when the "honey" lady had red currants again -- I bought a couple of boxes.  Making anything with currants seems to always involve cooking & putting through the food mill.  In the past my food mill was pulled off the shelf in the basement for 3 specific things - applesauce, tomatoes for sauce & for pureeing the cottage cheese in the cheesecake recipe that I make.  Now my food mill is getting extra work because of the red currants.  The recipe said that the yield was 2 pints.  Since I make jam in 1/2 pint containers I wasn't going to go through that muh work to make just 4 jars.  Doubling was the path I took [& I NEVER double jam recipes].  This recipe had you cook the blueberries with a little water, cook the currants with a little water, send the currants/juice through the food mill & add to the blues & cook some more.  Finally - time to add the sugar & ................. cook for 20 more minutes while stirring so it doesn't stick/scorch.  This recipe has no added pectin so you're really cooking off all that water you added at the beginning.  My double recipe took 40 minutes of stirrring, but the jam is lovely.  I'm not sure how many palates will taste the currants, but I  know that the juice is in there.
My friend that learned how to make strawberry jam on Friday was making blueberry jelly on Friday night.  I've never made jelly - I like the pieces of fruit, but she has requests for jellies & off she went.  I know that she's planning for Xmas gifts - wouldn't you love to receive jelly when it's cold outside & you can close your eyes & taste the summer blueberries on your toast?  What a GREAT gift.
This morning I'm headed up to my scraproom to finish up 2 travel journals that are on their way to Iceland via California ;-)  I made several travel journals when we went on our transatlantic cruise last year & one of the women has asked me to make them for her daughter's trip next week.  I wanted to finish them earlier, but between work & jam-making here I am.  They are so much fun to make & I can say that when I look back at the one that I completed during our trip [the goal here is to bring it wih you & finish it as you go - at the very most ~> adding photos after you get back, but not recreating the trip afterwards].  For me - it's more about the silly little things that happen that I record at the time.  If I waited - I'd forget about the individual events.
Soooo - another busy day.  Time for the first cup off coffee ...

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 6th - on the farm & a little about the 4th, too

One of my very favorite women in the world has become a "boutique farmer".  She is single-handedly leading me from the path of being afraid of birds to a limited affection for chickens [as long as they are in their chicken area behnd the fence].  I've learned more about chickens than I ever imagined.  Do you know that baby chicks arrive via the mail & if you accept not knowing their gender - they're less expensive? Guess how you find out their gender?  Two ways - an expert [don't ask] or wait until one of your new bundles of fun greets the dawn with a cock-a-doodle-doo.  I am not joking here!  Now - back to my gal pal that has these chickens.  She's a city girl -- no --> not Springfield or even Boston.  She's a New Yorker!  This is so far out of anything that I could imagine her doing & yet [no surprise as she's an avid reader] she has educated herself on all things poultry.  Of course - her motivation for owning chickens has to do with wanting to eat organic eggs (a noble rationale).  From there I can only smile.  Most of us would be happy with our boring chickens laying boring eggs.  Nope - the chickens have to be "pretty" & the eggs should be a rainbow of pale pastels.  Size is not the primary factor here --- pretty is the important adjective.  Now - I thought this had to do with her personality - she's a redhead that loves pink.  All girl.  But ......... nope.  I buy my eggs locally at the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.  I'm usually the first one there (sometimes before some of the vendors arrive) & I buy my eggs from an older gentleman.  When I asked if my eggs were laid by "pretty chickens" his response [without any hesitation] --- "all chickens are pretty".  I rest my case.
Today I spent time with DS in the kitchen teaching her to make jam.  Someone taught me to make jam & I was passing on everything I know to be true.  She has jam eaters lined up.  I told her my clause when giving out jam -- I'll give you a jar & if you give it back when it's empty - I'll give you another one.  We picked up fresh, local blueberries & my plan is to make blueberry jam this weekend.  Depending on what I find at the Farmer's Market tomorrow - there might be another batch, too. 
I don't like the heat, but I do love the fruits of summer.  I can taste the sunshine in the fresh berries that grow in New England during a short growing season.  We'll have fresh corn tonight & might even have some steamed wax beans.  They are a treat for everyone in our family. 
For the 4th of July we had an eclectic meal -- spiral ham, red currant onion chutney [yummmmmmmmmmmm], mashed potatoes, local zucchini & cornbread.  I wanted to jazz up the cornbread recipe a bit so I added some local dried chili, fresh scallions & cut some fresh corn off of ears that I'd cooked the night before.  I really liked the flavors that came through.  We had some cornbread leftover so it's going to be transformed into corn bread stuffing.  For dessert - I made a lemon cake & we had it with fresh blueberries, strawberries & whipped cream. 
Katie made a pie to take to her Dad's for the 4th.  She's got magical hands when it comes to pie-making.   This pie was blueberry, blackberry, raspberry & strawberry.  We made the crust together & while it was chilling worked on the filling.  I'm trying to hand over all of my favorite pie-making techniques to her.  She (at 12) can make a lattice crust to rival any baker.  From what I hear - her Dad said it was one of the best pies he'd ever had.  I've sworn her to keep the pie secrets until she passes them along to the next generation.
Time for me to plan my next project.  I might go & work on the 2 Travel Journals for Susan.  They need to go in the mail on Monday.  I might kick my feet up & start reading.  David is waiting for a friend to go fishing & the girls will be home by 4:00.  Where does the free time go?  Enjoy the weekend!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer

July 1st, 2012

I've decided that I'm going to use this little blog to chat about what's going on (at least in my corner of the world) even if I don't get around to posting pictures of everything I'm working on.  This summer & fall I'm going to focus on my local farm products & am back in jam-making mode.  I had requests this year to go back to making jam.  Unfortunately - my sweet husband didn't grow up eating jam & has no interest.  I'm forced to find takers for my jam.  So far this year I've made:  strawberry rhubarb jam, strawberry jam & red currant onion chutney.  As the season goes on I hope to make some of my favorites, but I haven't seen damson plums in years & they are one of the most delicious & beautiful jams that I ever made. 
We had friends over on Saturday to go boating & David asked me to make a Georgia Special Cake.  If you haven't tried this delicious cake, just google it & make it.  You'll win rave reviews. 
Today I worked on the 1st of 2 travel journals that I'm making for a friend in California.  I love putting them together & figuring out how I can add little extra surprises without it becoming my journal. 
It's warm in Massachusetts & I'm looking forward to a short week at work.  With the holiday on Wednesday I took Thursday off, too.  It's going to be wonderful to spend a few days on the lake.  We try to spend as much time outside as we can.  David's busy catching bass & I relax with either a book or my Kindle.  Life is good.
I hope to get some tatting done this week.  I'd like to work on a pattern that I have for a bookmark that I think would be perfect as a headband.  I need to focus on how to add more thread without having to weave it in after the project is finished.  I'll have to pull out my tatting book.
Enjoying Pandora as I blog.  It feels like having a dj in the room saying, "so - you like this artist --> have you heard this one" .... love it.
So - stay tuned.  I'm going to try to make this part of a routine.  Alternately - look for me on Pinterest.  I've got lots of treasures pinned.
Bunny Bunny ~