Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blackberry Bliss

Blackberry. Blackblerry, as Claire calls it. One of my favorite things. Recently a flat of these divine brambles crossed my path. I can't get my nose close enough. I love the perfumey goodness that can only be experienced with mass amounts of blackberries. I so wish that that was how jam tasted. I have an idea for that but I will have to wait until next season. Because, of course I made jam. I brought them out to my moms and we made some low-sugar and some no sugar. It was like old times, canning with my momma.

There were so many berries left. What to do with them?? Well, as passed done for generations, just like jam, once must make pie. I am not going to pretend to have the all knowing pie crust recipe, that is reserved for my mom. In fact pie making in general should be left to my mom. But, I must learn. So I bought a pie crust, sacrileges to some I know. I followed a recipe and some knowledge passed down from momma. Here it is:

Isn't it beautiful? I was so proud of myself. My first real pie. I added some spices, not too much of course. I was certain it was going to be divine. Then reality hit. While it may look like perfection, it was far from it. It didn't gel at all. I was so sad. It was a lovely store bought crust with reddish berrilicious soup inside. The guys were such troopers. They said it tasted good. It did. But I wanted it to be a success. So, now I am trying to find my next pie. I think it'll be in the berry category. How about huckleberry?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chai Experiment

I know that it is August and here in the NW it is H-O-T hot, but I am already preparing for fall. I think that there are a lot of factors at play. My family moved into a new home, it is beautiful and has been home since the second we signed the papers. It feel like this house was built for us. So, new home means another phase of nesting. Another meaning I experienced the first after having my daughter.

As you may have seen from some previous posts I am trying to do a bit of food analysis. I have definitely given up on the frozen boxed lunch. I have made it several weeks in fact! Trying to take more advantage of the goodness of our markets and local grub. But, if you know me, you know I love my chai tea! It has gone by the wayside for some time because it is fairly high in calories. In visiting some blogs I watch, I came across this chai tea recipe- can be found here.


* 1 1/2 cups of water
* 1 whole cinnamon stick)
* 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
* 1 heaping teaspoon cardamon seeds
* 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
(note I sliced some ginger, working on enhancing my kitchen tool repertoire)
* 2/3 cup milk
* 2 tablespoons honey
* 1 tablespoon loose black tea

Bring water and spices to a boil and simmer (covered) for 10 minutes. Add milk and honey; return to the boil. Remove chai from heat and add the tea. Cover and steep for two minutes.

(This recipe was taken from the aforementioned blog. I made some note, but stuck to the recipe.)

As it is a cardinal rule to try the original recipe first I did. Technically speaking she give the option to use powdered or whole. I typed the recipe for what I used. I think that next time I am going to do a variation using nutmeg. I am sure that down the line I will even write an Ode to Nutmeg!

This chai is yummy! I don't think it is so perfect that I am sworn off store bought though. But I think that with time I will tweak this to perfection! Maybe experimenting with different sweeteners, a different variety of spice, who knows.

What I do know is that all things spicy remind me of the best time of year, autumn. Folks, it is around the corner. I was looking out the window of my office to see the tops of trees starting to turn. Fall will be here before we know it. And with some new experiments with cooking and some recent preserving I am all the more ready!

Canning Goodness

This is another multi-purpose blog. I have been trying to get a canning entry in for weeks and now I had a deadline due for the blog at work. So here it is!

You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them. Genesis 6:21

Time for more of crafting as a spiritual practice. This time we will explore the craft of food preservation. Food preservation is another practice that has been passed down through the generations. I most definitely got the knack of it from my mother. She and I would often seek out the berries of the season and make them into jam. For most people, picking berries is worse than having to pick the seeds out of your teeth! For us, picking berries is meditative. (We had an opportunity to experience this together again recently.) We can and have picked berries for hours until our fingers were stained that bluey-purple-ish red that can only be achieved by berry picking. The most recent time it ended up with about 2.5 pounds of blueberries. Blueberries are small folks, that was a lot of picking! There is only one thing to do with that many berries…JAM! These in particular were made into a Spiced Blueberry Jam and Blue Blue Strawberry Jam (2 parts blueberry and one part strawberry). Both superbly delicious!

Since then, this wonderfully meditative preserving has turned into six batches of jam and a large batch of pickled goodies (beans, cukes and garlic). One of the best things about the items being preserved is that they are wonderful treasures to share with family and friends.

To me, each jar is like a handmade gem. I loved to mix and match flavors. To create something new and exciting, that you won’t find on the grocery store shelf. I love the process of stirring and seeing it transform into its own gem. Some “gems” are purple, some are pinkish-red, some are orangey-red. To me it is the equivalent to having jars of amethyst and rubies in my pantry. Better still because I made them. Each made them with the wonderful fruits of the season. And what a blessing that we can live in an area so abundant with this goodness!

Some years ago now, I signed up for the Master Food Preserving program. Should any of you have questions about canning, feel free to leave a comment, I’ll do my best to answer them. Happy canning!