Future Table

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This sweet slab of walnut is going to be a table eventually. Once I have extra time to spend sanding it and sanding it and sanding it some more. The wood was a gift from a friend whose garage we are helping clean out. I’m thinking the classic iron hair-pin legs will be good for this piece. Here’s to salvaging wood and making nice furniture!

Strawberry Rhubarb Balsamic Jam

ImageI understand that this post is a little bit behind peak strawberry season, but I’m putting it up anyways, in the hopes that some of you have a few pounds of strawberries you stashed in your freezers just waiting for that perfect jam recipe to come around.

ImageA friend of mine gave me the last few stalks from her rhubarb bush a week before the strawberries were really in full swing, so I stashed them in a glass of water in the fridge and crossed my fingers that they’d still be intact when the time came. Except for the ends curling up, they were basically perfect.

For this particular batch I had a few slightly bruised apples that needed tending, so I threw them in with the rhubarb and strawberries. I think it made the jam a little bit thicker and a little lighter than without, so it may become a regular feature. Lemme’ know what you think if you get to experimenting.

Strawberry Rhubarb Balsamic Jam

Made 2 1/12 lbs of jam – with this method the total jam equals out to the same weight of fruit used. I’ll include the ratios so you can sub in other kinds of fruit – I’ve been using red plums and strawberries and have my eyes on a pineapple variation.

1 1/2 lb Strawberries – washed and quartered with the greens removed
1/2 lb Rhubarb – cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 lb of Apples – I used Gala because they were what I had on hand, peeled and cut into chunks.
2 cups Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Honey
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Toss the fruit with the sugar and honey and let sit, covered, in a nonreactive bowl for about 30 minutes. Macerating the fruit like this seems to help the jam cook down a little bit faster. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen so I try to figure out ways to make my cooking process more efficient without loosing any flavor or food-integrity.

Scrape the fruit/sugar/juice mixture into a deep but wide sauce pan – the wider the base the faster the jam will cook down. Add in the honey and the balsamic vinegar – bring the mix to a low simmer and stir (continuously is great but unnecessary, so long as you don’t let any of it stick to the bottom and burn) until the fruit has mostly broken down into indistinct pieces.

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I always like to use the immersion blender at this point and blast the jam to make a smoother spread – I feel like it disperse the flavors more evenly and I have a more consistent product. I’m also weird about chunky textures. This cooking down process should take about 30 minutes, but to be sure, take a small spoon full of jam and dab it onto a plate. Tilt the plate to its side, if the jam runs, it isn’t ready, but if it stays in place, it is ready to jar or freeze or eat all at once.

ImageI like to put mine in sterilized 16 oz jars, leaving about 1/2″ of headspace, and process in a hot water bath for about 15 minutes. It usually gets eaten well before it would go bad without any canning, but we eat a lot of toast around here.

The basic ratio to remember is 1 lb of sugar and 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar to 1lb of fruit. So far this ratio has worked out pretty well with other types of fruit.

4 days of vacation time

ImageA and I are on a nice paid/free vacation (aka house sitting) on the Cape. Since it has decided to rain all day today, I’ll be writing up the ever growing and long (looooong) avoided list of recipes and projects that I constantly promise y’all I’ll be writing.

This picture is actually from a few months ago on the edge of Hale Beach in Dover, MA. Some friends and I went for a nice dip after a particularly sweaty work day. Mini-vacation.

 

a fine line with animal empathy

ImageWhile mulching (always mulching..) the other day, we disturbed a nest of voles. My boss, correctly, told me to leave them be and nature would sort itself out. Well, first he said to crush them and leave the for the crows but softened up when he saw the look of panic on my face. Needless to say I spent the next 10 minutes trying to mulch with one hand while I clutched two of the babies to my chest and tried to think of how I could bottle feed them and still work 6 days a week.

ImageI nestled them into a cardboard pint container with some hay and left them in a shady corner of the farm stand for the rest of the work day. I called A, excited but still torn about what to do. He asked me how I planned on taking care of them, what I would do with them, and if it wasn’t better to just leave them and let them go peacefully overnight instead of dragging it out over a few days at home.

I ended up leaving them in a bale of straw, I drove off, turned around and drove about half way back, turned around again, cried a little, was a total wuss. I couldn’t think of them as anything other than infants, not baby rodents, just babies. I told my boss based on this ridiculous outpouring I didn’t think I’d be very good with live stock. He said I’d probably be very good with livestock, having empathy for the animals would be crucial to their success. But he did agree that I’d have to learn how to let go and remember what I had been raising the animals for in the first place.

I still don’t know that I could dispatch anything I had helped raise, fed, or came when I called. My farm would just turn into an old folks home for cows and chickens. And then go out of business.

For those of you with livestock, how do you manage this? Do you do the processing yourself or do you send your livestock off? Which way helps you cope the best?

Baling Twine

Imageoh, what am I up to now? Some way to put all that gorgeous twine to use? You bet. I can’t help myself.

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Like how I use grocery bags to make my calendar pages. It is a constant problem.

Kimchi Party

ImageWhat do you do with 15lbs of nappa cabbage? Throw a kimchi making party. Two friends of mine came over and we washed, chopped, salted, and packed over 3 quarts of kimchi (we didn’t put a dent in the amount of cabbage…). We didn’t use any particular recipe, just eyeballed and adjusted to taste as we went. All of the ingredients except the ginger were sourced from the farm that day, the dried peppers were from last season.

ImageOne of mine and A’s favorite places to eat is a restaurant in town called Deep Ellum. On their menu they have a corn kimchi that is delicious, so I used some of my mixture to experiment with that. Downgrade the Cat is super interested in what is in the jars (she has just started eating canned cat food so thinks anything that comes out of the fridge is hers to eat).

ImageVegan Corn Kimchi
makes 1 quart

(For regular kimchi, just don’t add the corn and it should turn out delicious)

1 head nappa cabbage, about 3 lbs
3 hakurei turnips
about 6 new carrots, about 3″ long each
6 scallions
3 bulbs of green garlic
3 ears of sweet corn
1 dried pepper
1″-2″ of ginger
1/4 cup water, give or take
1 T Pickling salt

 

Prep jars by submerging them in a boiling water bath before you begin you kimchi making. This will give them time to cool before you fill them with your kimchi mixture.

Wash all of your vegetables thoroughly, use a soft scrub brush to ensure all of the tiny cracks in the carrots and any holes in the turnips are free of dirt. Kimchi relies on a healthy bacteria balance to properly ferment, we don’t want to introduce anything potentially harmful.

Peel all of the outer leaves of the cabbage off, composting the hard core. After washing, stack them on a cutting board and slice into strips about 1/4″ wide. I like to hand slice compared to shredding with a food processor or a food grater – the pieces are more satisfying to bite into and I can control the consistency better. Toss all of the cut cabbage into a nonreactive bowl (plastic works well) and sprinkle the Tablespoon of pickling salt over it. Lightly toss and then let rest while you prep the rest of your veggies.

In a food processor, blend the garlic, pepper, ginger, and water. Set aside.

The turnips will be sliced into matchsticks, the carrots into rounds, the scallions roughly chopped, and the corn cut from the cob. I like to have this variety in shapes and textures mostly for visual satisfaction, but I also think it makes eating more enjoyable. These veggies will all be tossed together with the garlic/ginger/pepper mixture from earlier.

Once thoroughly coated, add this mixture to the cabbage, and toss again. By now the cabbage should have lost a good deal of water. This water will be the brine used to top off the jars at the end of the process, be sure not to toss it out!

Using a pestle or drink muddler, pack the kimchi into the jars tightly. I like to fill it an inch at a time, pack it down, add more, pack it down, and so on. Do this until the jar has only about 1/2″ of head space, if the veggies are not already covered in brine, pour off some from the cabbage bowl to ensure complete coverage. Screw on a lid and let sit out overnight. Here it was about 80 degrees, so overnight seemed like just the right amount of time to get a good flavor. In the morning move the kimchi to the fridge – you can start digging in or let it sit a few more days to develop flavor.

Vegan corn kimchi, making up our own traditional foods every day.

There’s hay in my boots

ImageWe’ve been mulching like crazy at the farms, spreading straw around tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t plucked a few pieces of hay from unexpected places; my keyboard, my hair after showering, off the cat, out of my food… I’ve also been amassing a good amount of baling twine for a side project I’ll be sharing in a little while. Today is one of my very rare days off (more of a sick day, really), so I won’t be around long. Just enough to pop in and apologize for the sparse postings and a give a well-intentioned promise of more frequent updates (I have a desk to work at now instead of propping myself up in bed!)