Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summertime Drinks

Do you ever run into the problem where you buy an ingredient for a dish and then you never use it again? I try to avoid that and if something has an odd ingredient I’ll see if I can leave it out. Sometimes though, you can’t get away with it and you just have to get some random ingredient and hope you use it up in the dish.

We ran into this problem last year when Andy and I canned a Blackberry Framboise sauce. Framboise is (as I’m just realizing now) a raspberry brandy (also raspberry beer), as you can see from the picture, I purchased a raspberry liquor. At any rate, this liquor didn’t get drunk as I wasn’t sure what to do with it and beer is just easier.

Since Andy is storing our beer in our creepy basement, and I’m not fond of traipsing down there, I’ve been drinking more mixed drinks. Shuffling the raspberry liquor around finally got me figuring out what to do with it. Consulting the experts was the first step; however, I didn’t have campaign or some of the other essential ingredients. Improvising was in order! The end result is quite tasty, with a refreshing lift of raspberry and a beautiful maroon shade that fades darker toward the bottom.

The Ingredients:

1 shot vodka
1 ½ shots raspberry liquor (or perhaps another fruity liquor?)
3 ice cubes (I’m a stickler for this)
1 can “citrus soda”

The Process:

Put your ice cubes in the glass. Pour over vodka, then liquor. Top glass off with soda and stir together. Enjoy! (Responsibly please, I’m not to be blamed for raspberry overindulgence)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

First Salad from our Garden

A few weeks ago we harvested our first salad from our garden. With the warmer weather our lettuce actually did better. Since lettuce is a cold weather crop, I didn't think it'd like the 80 degree days, but it was better than days in the 60s. Since the first salad we've harvested another salad, including spinach, radishes and green onions. We have a tough, clay soil. So I think the radishes didn't grow big because the soil was dense, or maybe since our trees have leafed out it's too shady for them.

It's incredibly satisfying to pull food from the garden and enjoy it right away. My dastardly cat Buster discovered that he loves green onions, possibly more than we do. As I was carefully weighing the harvest (to keep track of yields) Buster jumped on the counter and absconded with a green onion. Since green onion leaves are like strings, he was just as excited to bat at the onion as I pulled it away as he was to chew the end. Who thought a cat would like onion?

At any rate, we did get some good radishes harvested and more are one the way. Andy ordered a mortar and pestle online and it's been in frequent use since it arrived. This delicious radish butter was his first creation and used both the leaves and the bulbs of the radishes. The leaves are a bit prickly, so they do well with a bit of smashing.

If you're looking to try some radish butter yourself. All that is involved is a bit of soften butter (1-2 tablespoons), a couple of radishes (with their leaves), and some salt. Cut up the radishes and mash with the salt, once it's a bit creamy add some leaves. Gradually add leaves until they're all used up and everything is creamy. Add the butter, mash and mix thoroughly. Enjoy on toast, eggs, pasta or ice cream! (Just kidding on the ice cream bit) Since this isn't really a recipe as a jumping off point for improvisation, you can really adjust this butter to how you want. If you're not interested in using radish leaves, you could use fresh thyme, basil or parsley. Instead of butter this could be a mayo seasoning for burgers or sandwiches. There's a lot you can do with one simple idea!

The one plant going absolutely nuts in the garden are the potato plants. Andy planted four seed potatoes, and we can see already that we've got some potatoes grown! He built potato boxes around them, so they continue to grow up. I will have pictures of that later. The potatoes have impressed me with their massive growth, and I'm pretty excited to harvest them.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

We be Jamming

Nothing says spring has arrived better than fresh strawberries! Yesterday Andy and I, and our friend Allie ventured north to pick strawberries at Bottom View Farm. It was super fun plucking my own berries and seeing my basket fill up. The last time I picked berries I think I was about the same size as the blueberry bush and ate more berries than I collected. This time around all the berries made it to the basket. With our fresh berries Andy wanted to make 2 batches of strawberry jam. Our poor judge of quantities and fuzzy memory of the amount needed led us to pick and purchase roughly 2 gallons of strawberries. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, and we weren’t daunted by our gigantic leaking bag of berries.

When I was looking up strawberry canning options the “old fashioned” strawberry jam caught my eye (this is Antique Modernism after all). Old fashioned just means that the jam is made without pectin and utilizes the fruit’s natural pectin. This sounded appealing to me so we attempted this as our first batch. After about an hour we realized that “old fashioned” actually meant boil the crap out of it until you can’t stand it any more, then fill jars and process as usual. From the way things look in the jar it has set nicely and our patience lasted just long enough. The book claimed that this jam caramelizes more and has a different taste than pectin-made jams. It certainly turned out a beautiful deep burgundy color.

Just keep boiling, and boiling, and boiling...

It ends up turning this scrumptious color!

Next up, Strawberry Sauce. I was doubtful about the utility of this one since we don’t put a lot of flavored sauces on things. However, Andy said it sounded delicious and we brainstormed other uses for strawberry sauce. It could be made into to frosting, muffins, tarts, perhaps even a layer in a cake. So strawberry sauce could be versatile. The recipe called for using corn syrup and our corn syrup has high fructose corn syrup, which isn’t something I want to use in my cooking, so I swapped it for honey. I wasn’t sure how it was done, but it turns our you can swap honey for corn syrup one for one. In addition to honey there was apple juice, orange juice and zest. This one was very fragrant with the honey and orange scents. I’m excited to try some leftovers over some pie later this evening.

Strawberry sauce is a brighter red.

Last we made strawberry jam with pectin. Andy concluded that powdered pectin was a worthwhile invention as this jam took only about 20 minutes to make. I’m glad we made both kinds, so that we could learn what it spoon tests were all about and learn to fully appreciate powdered pectin. This was the batch where we finally remembered to let the jars sit in the canner for 5 minutes after processing. So, hopefully the lack of sitting doesn’t affect the jam and sauce too much. I’m feeling confident though that it’ll turn out okay.

Right to left: Jam with pectin, jam without pectin (old fashioned), and sauce.

If you didn’t think that 3 batches of jam/sauce was enough to use up 2 gallons of strawberries you’d be wrong! We had enough berries left over to fill a cookie sheet for freezing. These little guys will be used for smoothies and... well, probably nothing else since smoothies are awesome.

I’m jazzed about the success of our first canning adventure of the season. We came out with 20 jars of jam/sauce and only 1 serious jam burn. On our list for other canning adventures include tomatoes, tomato sauce, pickles, peaches, blackberries, and applesauce. This is a good start; however, 3 batches in one day is a lot of canning activity and we were both dog tired after the kitchen got cleaned up.

Our new dog Cotton! He's tired from jamming too much.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Brewing is not Just for Men!

Sorry for the slow posts this week. Here's an short video from Minnesota Public Radio about the increasing number of women home brewing. Since I'm a woman and I home brew I'm pretty excited about more women getting into brewing, and for that matter, drinking beer. Here's to the ladies!