freezer frolics: ajvar 14 and QUINCE (crossed out cranberry) chutney

IMG_8984I’m starting a new fad.  Since almost everything I eat at home is local, it’s kind of silly to belabor the point.  So I’m now celebrating the joy of eating frozen food, liberated from my chest freezer and made more available in my regular freezer.

Breakfast was delicious and 100% frozen: kibbeh meatballs with mint, a slice of rye bread, and red hot Ajvar 14 sauce.

Lunch? Thanks for asking.  75% frozen.  Green chile tamales with the rest of my refrigerated QUINCE (as I yelled on the lid, crossing out the former denotation of ‘cranberry’) chutney.  Good.  I HAVE ANOTHER JAR IN THE FREEZER!!!

(The photos will also be frozen leftovers from the vault: this one isn’t too old, but appropriately chickens in the commercial freezer facility at Fair Valley Farm.)

 

separate two eggs: weight loss and mise en place

Detail, Market Scene with Christ and the Adulteress, Pieter Aertsen, 1559, Staedel Museum, Frankfurt.
Detail, Market Scene with Christ and the Adulteress, Pieter Aertsen, 1559, Staedel Museum, Frankfurt.

I’m prepping to receive about 100 lbs. of the tastiest, juiciest, pasture-fed, local beef, so I’m desperately trying to eat down my standing freezer.  This is a bit harder as one person than two, especially one who has been battling appetite slumps and anxiety cooking jags and antisocial moods and dining out hopes and growing terror about a headlong dive into poverty.

I’m finding little gems squirreled away in corners, now that I’ve freed the chicken carcasses, the oxtail bones, and the half pig head, trotter, and jowl from their frozen prisons to make stock.  I bring you the cornucopia of my life, most of it put up in the last year:

  • two fine pieces of lasagna;
  • 4 cups of sour cherries;
  • a quart bag of home-cured posole;
  • 4 cups of ajvar;
  • 3 gallon bags stuffed full of, respectively, boysenberries, haskapberries, and cranberries;
  • 1 gallon or so of tomato paste, portioned into 2 tablespoon-sized cubes;
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini;
  • 4 cups of sauerkraut golabki, pink; consumed;
  • bag o’ pancakes (pancakes?);
  • 2 cups b’steeya filling;
  • bolete pierogi (yum);
  • 2 half-pints duck rillettes;
  • 8 or 10 pieces of injera;
  • local polenta;
  • 2 quarts corn;
  • 1 cup wild mushroom duxelles;
  • 1 quart raisins (to go with the two more gallons raisins on my shelf and other freezer);
  • 2 gallons grapes to make more damn raisins;
  • 8 cups roasted sweetmeat squash;
  • a big package of forgotten homemade sausages (yay!);
  • pancetta;
  • 1 pint pork/raisin/almond tamale filling;
  • pork skin;
  • a bag of chicken feet;
  • and the meats and stocks one might expect.

I’m not even down into the bowels of the freezer yet. Or addressing the daily-use freezer full of readymades in the house.  If I were a civilization, what would this archaeological dig say about me, other than I’ve an embarrassment of riches?

Wait, don’t answer that.

Separate Two Eggs is my new, very occasional, series about a lonely single woman eating sad meals alone. Or not. It’s really just a way to continue to queer food writing and add diversity to the Mommy-blogging and monogamous couple-oriented fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

lekvar: roasted prune plum paste

IMG_8718Forgive me, I wish I had eaten the prune plums, but I had to make lekvar (prune paste) instead.  Lekvar is easy but takes a long time.  If you start with actual dried prunes, it’s much faster, but I was gifted 25 pounds or so windfall fruit from the Friendly Fruit Tree Project to process, so the first step was roasting the fruit to remove liquid and concentrate the sugars.

IMG_8701Once the fruit had been picked over, cleaned, and roasted overnight, I squeezed out the pits and cooked down the puree even longer.  Once it had significantly reduced in size, I milled out the skins and remaining stems, even catching a few errant pits.

IMG_8755If you can, mill on a coarse screen and a fine screen for a silky texture.

Then I added sugar at a 1.5:1 ratio, a cup of sugar for every 1 and a half cups of puree.  This yields a product that isn’t very sweet, but still provides a jam-like feel. And added the juice of a lemon to acidify the mix.  Some people add lemon or orange zest at this point.

IMG_8767I cooked the lekvar down for several more hours, carefully monitoring the bottom of the pan, which is very susceptible to burning.  The stuff thickened and reduced by about a third before I decided it was ready.  And then voilà!  Dark, mysterious prune plum paste for fall.  It can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen, as it’s a bit too thick to be processed safely.

IMG_8732One can use lekvar in so many wonderful ways: to stuff dumplings, fill cookies and Hamantaschen, spread on cheese or cheese crackers, or this, a wondrous creation from the Friuli region of Italy, inspired by Fred Plotkin’s recipe in La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Guilia, Italy’s Great Undiscovered Region.  Sguazeto sauce is used on roasted pork, but it makes a nice sticky barbecue sauce, too, for pork chops or a small shoulder roast.  It usually starts with prunes, but prune paste works like a dream.

Sguazeto for Roasted Pork

    • 2 heaping teaspoons pine nuts
    • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 2 tablespoons. olive oil
    • 1/4 cup lekvar (or, if you don’t have lekvar, substitute 3 Brooks prunes, chopped and plumped up with some wine for 30 minutes, then mashed)
    • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
    • 1 tablespoon. white wine vinegar

Roast the pine nuts and cumin seeds on a medium-high burner until fragrant.  Combine the pine nuts and cumin in a mortar and pound with a pestle until you have a fine paste, then mix with honey and olive oil. Heat mixture with lekvar, chicken stock, and vinegar and simmer for 10 minutes or so until flavors combine.

Roast or grill your meat as desired, dressed simply with salt and pepper. Remove from grill and top with sguazeto just prior to serving, or brush some on in the last 15 minutes of cooking. Garnish with chopped parsley and few whole pinenuts.

 

 

but first, the tomato news

IMG_8416Tomato time.  I take advantage of cooler nights and melt down chunks of paste tomatoes with a little olive oil and salt in a 225 degree oven overnight to make tomato paste.  After I mill out the skins and cook the rest of the water out, I freeze the paste in ice cube trays.  I’ll do this several times during tomato season to keep up with the harvest.  Not everything needs to be canned/preserved in big batches!

For a change of pace, try my green and red pizza sauce, cooked similarly to tomato paste but with more seasoning and green tomatoes.  You don’t need any special equipment for this one!

And later in the season, you can bet I’ll use up all the rest of the paste tomatoes in my ketchup recipe, one of the best recipes I’ve ever developed.

This year my always huge tomatoes got away from me in the dry heat, and I’m battling an even more severe blossom end rot issue than usual.  It’s clearly a calcium/fertilizer deficiency, since they grew so fast and I thought I had covered my bases with my usual treatment of dried milk and eggshells, plus even watering.  Even a calcium infusion late in the game didn’t help much.  Kind of mad at myself, since I’ve now lost about 75% of the plum tom crop, but I still have huge numbers of tomatoes, so I can’t complain about anything other than my own lack of vigilance.

What’s growing extremely well is the next generation Indigo tomatoes developed first at OSU.  I planted a grafted variety from Log House Gardens called ‘Indigo Cherry Drop’ that has proven to be blossom-end-rot (BER) bullet-proof (the only plant that emerged unscathed).  The others, not so much:

Tomatoes 2014

  • Orange Icicle and Black Icicle (both very prolific but wiped out nearly clean with BER, orange variety tastes terrific)
  • Black Ethiopian (a solid salad tom, pretty good BER resistance)
  • Indigo Cherry Drop – terrific, perfect golf ball size; actually tastes good, unlike the first gen Indigos (not great but good), and very pretty
  • Sungold
  • Amish Paste (got the big strain this year, thank goodness, and it’s stronger against the BER than expected)
  • San Marzano (grafted) – still tastes bad and full of BER
  • Jersey Devil (grafted) – another plum but same problems
  • Sunset’s Red Horizon
  • Henderson’s Winsall
  • Anna Russian – another big paste (or rather heart-shaped) that resembles Amish but seems heartier
  • Rose di Berne
  • Black Mt. Pink

And while I’m at it, just thought I should mention the peppers are doing very well.  I had to pinch off blossoms early in the season to encourage the plants to grow large enough to support the crop, so I’m just now getting some full, beautiful pepper development.

Peppers 2014

  • Corbaci (a long skinny sweet pepper, really cool and prolific, grew in pot)
  • Sweet banana
  • Carmen (x 2, not sure why i grew two of these)
  • Paradisium Alatu Sarza Szentes (yellow ribbed flat guys)
  • Jaloro (yellow jalapeno, in pot, hot)
  • Atris (F1 hybrid, huge)
  • Mulato
  • Mulato Islena
  • Padron
  • Aji Amarillo  (no flowers yet!!)
  • Negro de Valle
  • Pasilla Baijo (chilaca when fresh)

express your love: oregon coast

IMG_8332IMG_8276 IMG_6045Express your love, my birthday horoscope said, it’s the key to a successful year.  So here are some images I love from my recent travels.  From top to bottom:

1)  One of several illustrations that are part of a history exhibit on the Tillamook Country Smoker at the Museum of People’s Art in Bay City, OR, an adorable little gallery devoted to celebrating Oregon’s labor that’s attached to a café and indoor produce and provisions market facing the ocean.

2)  Now defunct but still, like the Giving Tree, giving, the first Oregon Heritage Tree, a 17-foot diameter Sitka spruce at Klootchy Creek County Park in Seaside, OR.  Not only is the tree alleged to be the oldest standing thing in Oregon (estimated around 750 years old when it was partially felled by a storm a few years ago), it’s situated at the site of a grisly pioneer ptomaine poisoning in 1899 that wiped out a group of lumber scouts and their guide, the doughty Seaside entrepreneur Antoine Cloutrie. A good reminder: a storm is more than a hill o’ beans, but sometimes those beans, when canned improperly, CAN KILL.

And

3) A lone surfer girl pondering the rocks at Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park, between Cannon Beach and Manzanita, OR. Surrounded by water, drinking a glass of water, made of water.  How vitally we are of the seas that make up the majority of our planet.

 

 

my bread and butter (and jam)

IMG_7604We finished the team-taught experimental University of Oregon Clark Honors College “Bread 101” class on Monday, with students bringing in their final projects: loaves of bread baked with sourdough starter they cultivated during the term.  You can see all the pictures chronicling the 10-week experience here.

Just so we’d have all the bases covered, I made some butter and brought along a few jams for the tasting.  A student requested a recipe, so I present them to you here, yeastily, in case you want to eat eight loaves of bread in a sitting, too.  IMG_7622IMG_7606 It was a wonderful class, and I’m so grateful I had a chance to be a part of it.  Working with the scientists was so much fun, and we all improved our pedagogy and learned a great deal from each other.  And the class itself was a delight. Several of the students, mostly graduating seniors, were ones I had had as freshmen during my four years teaching in the Honors College, and it was a pleasure to see how they had developed as thinkers and writers.  That’s really the reward in teaching, and as I ponder the next phase in my life, I’m thankful that I can have this experience to cherish, a truly innovative course that I can say with no guile or guilt is part of the revolution that needs to happen in higher education.  A Pisgah sight of Paradise, I suppose, but I’m happy to have had it.

Congratulations to the graduates; may you earn good bread in both literal and metaphorical ways, and may your slices always fall with the butter side up!

IMG_7580IMG_7593

Homemade Butter

Butter can easily be made cultured by souring the milk overnight on the counter with a little cultured buttermilk mixed in.  I suggest using about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Makes about 1 cup butter and 1 cup of fresh buttermilk.

Take one pint of the best whipping cream you can find, preferably not ultra-pasteurized.  (Strauss makes a good product.)  It’s best if it’s somewhere between ice cold and room temperature.  Place it in your mixer’s bowl and whip with the whisk attachment on high for about 8 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally, until the whipped cream “breaks” into solid bits and liquid.  Stop when it looks like grains of rice in swampy liquid.  You can also try this by hand with a whisk or by shaking it in a jar if you are a masochist.

Drain the liquid from the solids in a fine-mesh sieve for about 20 minutes, then add salt if you wish, mixing thoroughly.  Press as much liquid out as you can using a wooden spoon or similar.   Pack into a jar and refrigerate.

Boysenberry-Kaffir Lime Jam (low sugar)

This recipe is an adaptation of one for “sour blackberries” on the Pomona pectin recipe insert. It makes 4-5 half-pints for canning.  If you want to make it and give it away to friends, there’s no need to can the jam as long as you keep the jars in the refrigerator.  I’m providing basic canning instructions if you’d like to give it a try, though.  The pectin is necessary to make the jam low sugar, and I’ve chosen what I consider the best commercial pectin for low sugar spreads, Pomona.  It uses its own process with calcium water, so it can’t be substituted.  If you’d like to make a full sugar jam with no pectin, try a recipe like my roasted blackberry jam instead, substituting boysenberries and lime juice/lime leaves for the lemon.

  • 1 box Pomona Pectin (do not substitute other kinds of pectin)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • half-flat of boysenberries (or enough to make 4 cups of mashed fruit, about 6-7 cups)
  • 2 t. lime juice
  • 2 t. finely minced fresh kaffir lime leaf
  • 2 t. calcium water (see below)
  • 2 t. pectin powder

For canning: Prepare calcium water: combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona’s Pectin) in a little jar with a lid, since there will be some left over for future batches. Shake well and store in the refrigerator.

Mix 2 cups of sugar with 2 teaspoons of pectin powder (in the large packet in the box).

Bring to a boil enough water in a large stockpot or waterbath canner to cover 5 half-pint jars.  Wash your jars, rings, and lids, and heat the lids according to the package instructions as you’re heating up the waterbath canner.

Examine fruit for leaves and dirt; quickly rinse, if especially dusty.  Mash enough of the berries to make 4 cups of pulp and place in a large pot, leaving space for the mixture to bubble up.  Add 2 teaspoons of calcium water, lime juice, and minced kaffir lime leaves, mix well, and bring to a boil.

Add sugar mix and stir vigorously to melt pectin.  Bring back up to a boil and let boil for a minute.

Remove from heat and let sit for a couple minutes.  Skim foam from top. Spoon hot jam into jars carefully to reduce bubbles, leaving 1/4-inch head space.  Wipe rims of jars and adjust lids and rings.

Process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes.  Let sit in canner for a few minutes, then remove jars carefully and let cool, undisturbed, overnight.  Remove the rings and check the seals, refrigerating any that didn’t seal.  The jam will keep over a year on the shelf if the seals are intact; a couple of months in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

strawberry candy

IMG_7662As happy as I am to usher in strawberry season, it’s really just a prelude to raspberry season for me.  I’m not really a huge fan of strawberry jam, since I find it discolors more quickly than other berry jams, and the pieces are often too big and slippery.  My favorite preparation for strawberries is, instead, dehydrated slices that taste sweeter and cleaner than other dried berries do when dried.

IMG_7591Sliced at 1/4-inch thick and dried until crisp at 135 degrees, they make great additions to trail mix, cheese plates, oatmeal, and granola.  The trick is to slice them evenly (do not follow my example here), get them fresh, pick a large, solid variety (Hoods or Tillamooks work well; avoid Seascapes or Shuksans) and make way more than you think you’ll need.  I sometimes wait until the end of the season so I can get a deal on a flat after everyone has tired of eating these delicious morsels fresh with cream, as we do.

Have little strawberries left over?  I’ve stopped using supermarket California strawberries for my annual strawberry clay facial mask because of the pesticides (no, I’d never eat them).  So make a facial from nice organic Oregon ones instead!