Butter Redux

While K and I made jam Saturday night, I managed to whip up a fresh batch of butter.  This went as smoothly as the last time (sans the worrying about whether or not I was doing it correctly).  However, this time, instead of putting the entire ball of butter in one of our glass Pyrex containers, hubby suggested we find a little butter mold and make small pieces of butter instead.  He said that while our first batch of butter lasted awhile and tasted just fine, the container it was kept in smelled of spoiled milk after awhile.  (Of course, he didn’t let me know this until after the butter was all used up!)

While at Bed, Bath and Beyond last night buying our new pot (I am STILL excited about that pot, ha!), we looked for butter molds, but they didn’t have any.  Boo.  So instead, we purchased a silcone mini muffin pan to serve a dual purpose – a type of butter mold, and of course, a mini muffin pan. 🙂

I’m a little unsure about purchasing silicone.  You can’t recycle it, and Annie at Care2 says that “The chemical hazard database at Scorecard repeatedly reports that there isn’t enough research to determine the hazards.”  Mmm… a little worrisome.

However, we were in need of something, so we bought it and I hope we won’t end up regretting it.

After making the butter, K pressed the soft spread into a few of the mini muffin holes, then put it in the freezer to harden overnight.

Then, Sunday morning, I popped out the frozen pats of butter.

I wrapped each one in wax paper, then placed in a ziploc freezer bag.

We can take out a little butter at a time, and don’t have to worry about that spoiled milk smell anymore.

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Berrying

Berry picking!

Berry picking!

K and I tried out Bowman Orchards, over in Rexford, yesterday afternoon. It was cloudy, and the air was full of so much humidity, it was almost sort of gross. It was our first time berrying at this place, and we weren’t sure what to expect. But they had red raspberries and blackberries for picking, and Indian Ladder had a bad raspberry season, and doesn’t offer blackberries at all.

Our berries

Our berries

After saying hello to workers in the store, we found out Bowman is a little different than Indian Ladder. First off, there’s a tractor with a long cart to bring you out to the fields, instead of the ability to walk or drive your car closer to the field. However, they charge $2 per person for doing so (though there’s no choice). It kind of annoyed us, and we felt silly sitting in the back of this long cart that could have clearly held 20 people, being driven to the raspberry field. Plus, I can’t imagine how good the gas mileage on that tractor is – so it seems a waste of money and emissions.

Tractor cart

Tractor cart

But on second thought, we decided we couldn’t begrudge them a good way of bringing in a little extra income to cover other costs. I mean, outside of Big Ag, small time farmers are not rich people. And, which pollutes more, the tractor or lots and lots of cars driving to different fields?

Raspberry field

Raspberry field

So we rode out to the raspberry field (or one of them, anyway) and made our way through it. It was so hot and muggy, I felt almost claustrophobic between the rows. There were tons of raspberries, but most of them were overripe (do many people come to this place?) and full of mold.

Honeybee enjoying some nectar

Honeybee enjoying some nectar

Which was most likely because of all the rain we had this summer, shame. And furthermore, there were honey bees EVERYWHERE. K told me that honey bees are very docile and it takes a lot for them to sting you, but I was really nervous. Still, he must have been right, because we made it through without getting stung (and we couldn’t go a foot without coming into contact with 3 or 4 every which way).

It was really hard to find good raspberries, even though there looked like there were tons of them. Took us 45 minutes of hard labor before we got 2 quarts worth. K really wanted to skip the blackberry picking, but I was looking more forward to that than the raspberries. So we got

K picking blackberries

K picking blackberries

back on the tractor cart and rode it a short way to the blackberries. We got off and looked at them. They were huge and ripe and looked gorgeous! So prolific, we were done picking two quarts in 10 minutes! So we balanced our quarts while riding the bumpy tractor cart back to the store to pay for it all.

Beautiful blackberries

Beautiful blackberries

The berries were $4.29lb, which sound a bit pricey, but in the store you get 6 oz. for approx. $4 and even at the farmers market, you get only a 1/2 pint for $4. We ended up with 6 lbs of berries!

Then we saw they had homemade ice cream for sale and I HAD to get some. I was hot, sticky, and homemade ice cream seemed like the perfect topper to the day. I got S’mores ice cream and hubby got Chocolate with globs of peanut butter mixed in. So freaking yummy!!

Enjoying some homemade ice cream in the store

Why does my husband never smile in pictures?

Then, later on in the day, we made red raspberry and blackberry jam. We ran out to Bed Bath and Beyond to look for butter molds, didn’t find any, but found a perfect 4 quart Farberware pot to use for making jam.  Hubby has been using the 6 pot quart we usually use for jam to make tomato puree (we’re going to make sauce tonight) so when we saw this, it was just what we needed. Plus, my mom gave me the Farberware stainless steel pots she used in my household growing up, so they’ve lasted 20 years and are still going strong. Why not just add to the collection instead?

So…a little boiling and sugar later…

Cooking down the red raspberries

Cooking down the red raspberries...

...and the blackberries

...and the blackberries

3 half-pints of raspberry jam, 5 half-pints of blackberry jam

3 half-pints of raspberry jam, 5 half-pints of blackberry jam

A few more jars to add to the pantry!  Not to mention, we had about half a quart left over of each berry.  Tonight we’re having fish for dinner, and making a blackberry/raspberry chutney to go with it…yum!

News Article: Veggie Tales

Looking at the Sunday version of the Capital District’s paper, the Times Union, I saw another article on Captial District Community Gardens.  My favorite lines in the article are this:  “In these inner-city acres, rich and poor, white and black, young and old and people spanning the social, economic and ethnic spectrum mingle and create a community that is something of a surrogate family…’We’ve got lawyers pulling weeds alongside laborers and immigrants. They help each other and form an amazing community. They become families, in essence’.”

Having a garden this year has been one of the best experiences that K and I have ever had together.  The amount of hours we’ve put into our garden, the exercise, the pride I feel when I see the fruits and veggies grown from the seeds we planted in the early dark of spring, the dirt on my feet – I love it all.  So here’s the article:

Gardens Ripe With Tales of Albany

Urban community plots are a fertile ground for diverse crops and a variety of people

By Paul Grondahl, Staff Writer
First Published in Print: August 23, 2009

// //

ALBANY — Dressed in his formal chef’s whites, Noah Sheetz, Gov. David Paterson’s executive chef, ambled across Eagle Street from the Executive Mansion and picked his way through the bounty of the community garden that borders Lincoln Park.

From neatly ordered, weed-free rows in a corner plot he tends, Sheetz yanked up a fistful of ruby beets the size of baseballs and sliced off a head of broccoli as wide as his palm.

“This has worked out really well and it’s great to learn from the other gardeners,” said Sheetz, a Culinary Institute of America graduate with solid restaurant credentials.

As Sheetz commiserated about tomato blight and an influx of pesky beetles, gardener Euthia Benson, who grew up in the Deep South, told a story about how her mother taught her to grow tasty okra when she was a young girl.

Read the rest at: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=834107

Pickles!

Pickling cucumbers

Pickling cucumbers

Last night, K and I finally canned our pickling cucumbers, after leaving them in the fridge all week.  I think they lost their fresh edge, and won’t be as crispy when we bite into them later on, but it’s been a busy week, and this was the earliest we could get to it (hey, we STILL haven’t canned the green beans, and they’ve been in the fridge for weeks – I’m guessing they won’t be good anymore).

Pickling cucumbers seems like it wouldn’t take as long as canning jam, yet it took us a lot longer.  Much of that time was just sitting around waiting though.  You still water bath can it (haven’t used our pressure canner yet, and I have to admit I’m a little scared I’m going to blow up my place!) and all you do is pour the boiling pickling mixture over pickles and process the jars.  Yet, everything took forever.

Some cut up cukes

Some cut up cukes

We started per usual, washing a number of jars and putting them in the canner to get them up to 180F degrees.  The recipe we followed called for 8lbs of pickling cucumbers to make either 3 quarts or 7 pints of pickles.  We weighed our pickles and found we had just over 4lbs.  Hubby said we should make half the recipe, I insisted we just go ahead and make a normal amount.  And who was right in the end?  Neither of us.  We ended up having enough pickles to fill 2 quart jars and 3 pint jars (with 3 cucumbers left over!) and the recipe we followed didn’t make enough “brine” to fill those five jars, so we had to make a second batch afterwards.  Bah.

As we heated up the jars and started sterilizing the lids, I set the following onto boil:

  • 1 quart vinegar (plain white vinegar, 5% acidity)
  • 1 quart water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canning salt

All about salt

Salt has been used in preserving (not just pickles, but fish and meat) for thousands of years.  Know where the phrase “Not worth his salt” came from? Roman soldiers used to get partially paid in salt!

Canning salt, pickling spices, and spice bag

Canning salt, pickling spices, and spice bag

Canning salt was new to me before this week – I had to look it up earlier in the week to find out how it’s different from regular salt.  Canning salt is salt without any additives – unlike plain table salt which is normally iodized. Most table salt has potassium iodide, dextrose (to stabilize the iodide) and some anti-caking agent in it.  You could use canning salt for regular table salt, but in humidity it clumps together.  Likewise, you could use regular table salt to can pickles, but the iodide will turn the pickle juice cloudy and might make the pickles look dark.  They would still be fine to eat though!

When I got the liquid in my pot to simmer I added 3 tablespoons of pickling spices to a spice bag, and then let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes.  Well, that’s what the recipe said to do, but my friend Jess said to make sure that the mixture tastes the way you want your pickles to taste, so I left the spice bag in there to simmer for about 30 min.

Pickling spices simmering the vinegar mixture

Pickling spices simmering the vinegar mixture

Once the vinegar mixture is just how you want it, all you need to do is put your pickles (cut up however you want) into the hot jars, add 1 tablespoon of dried dill seed or 1 head of dill per quart, and ladle the mixture over it until the cucumbers are covered.

Hey, Dillweed!

Dill was another thing I learned a lot about this week.  When I first read over the recipe, I read “a head of dill” and thought back to the garden, where one of the people gave up on their plot earlier in the year, but had a lot of dill growing.  So, we brought home a dill plant on Sunday night.  However, I thought a head of dill meant I needed the leaves, so I stripped the leaves, put them in a plastic ziplock, and dumped the seeded head (don’t ask me why I didn’t make the connection).  Then I thought, maybe one plant isn’t enough, so I purchased some fresh dill at the grocery store.  Only last night did I find out that what I really needed was that seeded head, and not the rest of the plant!  Luckily, K ran out quickly to the store and bought some dill seed, just in time to add to the pickle jars.

So, just so you know – dill weed and dill seed are two different things, and are NOT interchangeable!  Dill weed are the leaves of the plant, and dill seed is the fruit of the plant.  Dill seed is more of a spice, whereas Dill weed is more an herb.  So it caused some consternation in the house last night!

So, after the pickles are in the jar, and the lids and bands are put on, it goes back in the hot water bath for 15 minutes (after it gets back to boiling).  And then it’s done! Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  And yet, yesterday it took hours to get the boiling water canner up to 180F for the hot jars, and forever to get the vinegar just right.  But in the end, this is what we ended up with:

Lots o pickles

Lots o' pickles

3 pints of pickle chips (Hubby REALLY loves his burgers with pickles), 1 quart of pickle spears, and 1 quart of whole pickles.

I think we’re good for awhile with pickles!

Weekend To Do List

We finally have a free weekend and I’m making a list of eleventy billion things I want to do.  You know, beyond the normal food shopping, cleaning, laundry, and the like – which in itself could probably take up all weekend.

But this weekend we’re going to a new farm (a “new to us” farm, the farm itself isn’t new, heh) to go raspberry and blackberry picking!  I’m hoping there’s lots to pick.  I’ve gone wild berry picking before, you know, when camping, or at someone’s house and they have it growing in the back, but never picked at a farm.  Then, of course, I plan to can raspberry and blackberry jam.

I also need to make more butter.  My first attempt at making butter was a great success, and lasted a lot longer than I thought it would.  We finished it and need some more!

Besides that though, we really need to spend some serious time in the garden, making up for all that time during July when we just couldn’t get there due to my recuperation.  Even now, I’m not 100%, but I can certainly handle more things.

We need to:

  • Weed. Everwhere.  Pull out the dead plants (like the sugarsnap pea vines) and cart them away to the mulch pile.
  • Collect seeds. Our lettuce has gone to seed, along with what’s left of the peas, so they need to be collected to save for next year.
  • Turn over dirt. The garlic has been harvested (and used already! Woe 😦 ), the onions have been pulled, the lettuce has been done for some time, and all of it needs to be turned over so we can plant anew in the fall.
  • Plant fall crops. Not sure what we’re going to do with it yet.  Definitely garlic (which we won’t get until next year) but I need to do some research on what is hardy in the Zone 5 area, where we live.  The brussels sprouts are still growing and are a winter crop, I think, but not sure what else.

Phew! So much to do, and only 2 days to do it all in.

Great Flats Pic 8/20

August 20, 2009

August 20, 2009

News article: So You Think You Can Farm?

I think I’m going to start posting articles related to this blog that interest me again. I did it in the beginning, but kind of gave up, but I think it would be nice to be able to go back at a later point and look at articles that interested me in the past.

Not sure whether to post them on my blog or on a separate page though.  I like the separate wordpress pages, but I just have to keep adding each article to the bottom of the page – I can’t do separate entries like I can here.  So, I’ll have to think about it…

In the meantime, I read this article last weekend and found it really interesting! When I was little, I loved The Oregon Trail and always wished I lived in the 1800s so Icould get in a covered wagon and be a settler.  This article makes me think about whether I’d be able to leave my home right now in 2009 and move to Iowa and start a farm.  I’m not sure I could!

Accountant, dentist, lawyer: future farmers?

Program partners aspiring farmers with aging pros to preserve way of life

updated 3:02 p.m. ET, Sat., Aug 15, 2009

RICHLAND, Iowa – He quit his job and drove his wife and their four young daughters across country, a 21st-century pioneer lured to these faraway farm fields by the promise of a life-changing deal with an older stranger.

Isaac Phillips always wanted to be a farmer. But some friends as well as colleagues at the Utah jail where he supervised inmate work crews were leery, telling him: a) don’t give up a steady job, b) you’re making a big mistake and c) it’s a crazy idea….

Read the rest at:   http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32428465/ns/us_news-life/