Today, I canned all the things.
I had two zucchini the size of schoolbuses (okay, one was only the size of a short bus) which I grated up and made into zucchini muffins and zucchini brownies, some of which are in the freezer and some of which will be eaten this week. I converted 16 lb of canning tomatoes into oven-roated tomatoes, canned four pints and converted another three pints into two half-pint jars of tomato jam (recipe below), and I put up four pints of string beans (two green, two wax). I also made watermelon salsa, and very soon will be freezing the watermelon sorbet that is currently chillying down.
Right now, as I type this, the tomatoes are in the pressure cooker being sterilized. Once that's done, I plan to hang around and watch movies and not do much of anything else.
First get a lot of ripe tomatoes (somewhere around 5 pounds.)
Cut them in half, put them face-down on a cookie sheet, and roast them at 400 degrees for an hour. During this process, you will want to check once or twice to make sure they have not filled the cookie sheet with juice; if they have, carefully drain it off into a heatproof cup and continue roasting.
When they are roasted, pour them into a colander set over a large bowl. Allow them to stand and steam and cool for a bit. Once this is done, pick through them and cut out the stem ends and pull off the skins. Discard these bits.
Return the tomatoes to a saucepan with their reserved juices. Add:
a sprinkle of salt
2-3 tbsp honey
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
Cook uncovered on low for one or several hours, until it has reduced to a thick jam.
Eat on bread or things, or process in canning jars for later.
Today, I canned all the things.
I just collected about a dozen unripe windfall pears, victims of the thunderstorm two nights ago. I quartered them--they were like little rocks--seeded them and removed any buggy bits, and combined them with water, cloves, palm sugar, and nutmeg to make a pint and a half of pear butter. The water bath is coming up to temperature so that I can process the jars, and then they'll go in the basement with the others.
We had a jar of the first batch of pickles at the party yesterday, and they were good. A little high on the vinegar-to-water ratio, and they needed a bit more sugar, but good. I'll probably be putting up a few more quarts of pickles tomorrow, as I expect the farm share will have a hell of a lot of summer squash in it. Maybe I'll even try pressure canning some, although summer squash pickles are really good. Also, I want to sweet-pickle some pearl onions. Maybe I'll throw a hot pepper in that jar, too.
And this is one of the things I love about life: that I can take something that would just be thrown on the compost heap and make food out of it,
This reminds me, obliquely, of how Rick Springfield saved my life.
I know I've talked about it before, but the great thing about "Jessie's Girl" is that it is a fabulous example of an unreliable narrator who doesn't know he's unreliable. Like David Bowie's narrator in "Cracked Actor," this guy is a real piece of work, and totally unaware that the reason behind all his problems is, well, him.
When I was younger, I didn't get that there was such a thing as an unreliable narrator, or that one of the great techniques of art is to put the reader in the head of somebody with whom he (and the author!)fundamentally disagrees, and that this can evoke a far, far more nuanced response than merely presenting a didactic argument against something.
Any teacher knows that students learn and think best when allowed to draw their own conclusions.
Interestingly, the last time I brought this up, one commenter (I don't remember who)mentioned per feelings that Rick Springfield should have made "Jessie's Girl" didactic--that is, impossible to misinterpret.
I have been thinking about that, and think that's wrong.
Didactic literature has its place, certainly--there is room in the world for Black Beauty and Little Brother--but I can't help but think that the flash of insight--the epiphany--that I got when I figured out how the narrative in "Jessie's Girl" worked was more than worth the distaste I felt for the song prior to getting a clue. Because it taught me tings--things about interacting with the world, things about how people I disagreed with might see themselves and me--that I wouldn't have figured out from just being told, "Hey, guys who act like this are schmucks."
I think I like Zelazny the better for having made me like Corwin before I figured out that Corwin was a lying liar who lies, and also kind of an asshole. I love Steve Brust's Agyar precisely because you can't trust the narrator. And I love "Jessie's Girl."
Because that's art that reflects a verity--people do not see themselves truly, and nor do we see anyone else as they are, but through a lens of projection. Are some people going to get confused by this? Well, yes.
But in this, as in everything in art, it is not actually our job to aim for the lowest common denominator. Nor (as greygirlbeast said at ReaderCon in different terms) is it our job to make readers cozy and comfortable no matter what. First of all, we can't--it is physically impossible to write something everyone will find comfortable. Second, it's our job to tell the truth, as much of it as we can compass, and the truth is often pretty hard to hear.
And after all, I tell lies to strangers for money.
Oh, porphyrin and mrissa -- here are those two Bowie videos I was trying to find for you and failing. (NB: the second song may be kind of triggery for some, as it's narrated from the point of view of an adult survivor of child sexual abuse in intense emotional turmoil, and it doesn't pull any punches.)
Six large stalks rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 large thumb of ginger, peeled and matchsticked
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup raspberries
Cook this until it jells and then either stick it in jars and can it or stick it in tupperware and freeze it.
If any lasts that long.
Oh my gawd.
I might even find a few more minutes in which to get some reading done!
In other news, I've been an afficionado of Dundee's ginger preserves for some time. Yesterday at the grocery story I scored some of their new key lime marmalade.
I can tell I've reached the last third of the book (finally) because I've moved from "How the hell am I gonna ever get 400 pages out of this sucker" to "This stuff will never all fit!"
But of course it will fit. It always does.
Just gotta finish this chapter and write a transition to elapse a little time.
In other other news, Rachel Maddow is <3.
I guess it was old enough that the moisture content in the buckwheat was no longer sufficient to, well, not catch fire.
I guess I need a new neck thingy.
I haven't done any actual work yet today--The White City is the next thing on my agenda--but I have been Exceedingly Productive Bear. You see, thecoughlin and TBRE and my mom and I went in on a winter CSA share, and tomorrow another ten or fifteen pounds of root vegetables will be descending upon my kitchen. So today, I had to use up most of the previous share, which has been malingering due to holidays and so forth.
I figured I would just cook everything, and it could be instant leftovers/veggie snacks and/or lunch (or breakfast, because as is often the case when I get up and start cooking, I forgot to eat anything), and I started a pan of roasted yams with salt (tiny ones, so I left the skin on.) and a pan of roasted beets, celeriac, and carrots with ginger and honey. I also tried my first-ever batch of sauerkraut*, which, if I am lucky and it works, we can have with kielbasa in a couple of weeks. I used a lot of garlic. I am very excited.
So lunch was two hard-boiled eggs (there are now only four left from the last flat from the ag coop down the block) and kimchi, with root veggies as a second course. I feel replete with healthful phytochemicals, lemme tell you.
Dinner last night was goat cheese tart in filo pastry with sauteed mushrooms. The mushrooms were a new thing too--white beech mushrooms, Hypsizygus tessellatus, which have that awful acrid taste that unripe persimmons have when raw (high tannin content, maybe?), but cook up into, well, mushrooms! I made them a bit overspicy-spicy, maybe, because we didn't have any white wine (I usually use white wine, onions, garlic, butter, thyme) and I was experimenting with different flavor profiles. But they were still pretty good; I just would have liked to taste the mushrooms more and the habanero less.
I was walking around the kitchen all last night going "Hypsizygus tessellatus!" with great portentousness and magnificent gesticulations. I need to write a story where the incantatory magic system is based on the Latin names of fungi.
Oh, and I thought of a cool thing for the Heroic Hookers Of The Old West novel today, if I ever get to write it.
I love living here, where I can walk down to the farmer's coop on the corner and buy local eggs and apples (they're supposed to have fresh veg this summer, though at that point we will be working through the SUMMER CSA and the garden and may be living in fear of veg), and where there are such things as wintertime CSAs. And I love the CSA because it not only encourages the eating of many many tasty vegetables (I swear you really can taste the vitamins in food that hasn't been cold-stored for months and then shipped all over the world--as we say around here, "Hey! There's food in my food!") but also because it supports local farms and makes me be creative. (Celeriac? Really? Cool!)
I should start using up the frozen fruit and tomatoes I put up last summer. It's January, after all. Soon it will be summer again.
I'm all about fridge-cleaning cookery today.
So later on I will make whole-wheat sourdough pancakes to give the shoggoth some exercise (we will eat them with the last of the borscht for lunch), and I will make whole-wheat crust pizza to use up the last of the pizza sauce and some lingering goat cheese and mozzarella, and life will be good. TBRE and I have agreed that today is a day for hanging around and not doing much of anything--she's off watching anime and playing with the cats, and I'm on the couch with the dog.
And maybe I will eat a persimmon, since there is one left. And play some guitar, and work on my manuscript, which is a complete draft and only needs to be made perfect now.
That sounds like a very good first day of this year that sounds like a science fiction year, for sure.
All that's left of the CSA at this point is two butternut squashes and four or five little delicatas, and since the squash is apparently going to run out after this week, I don't mind having those lingering--we'll get to them, and they'll keep until we do.
Margaret Atwood and Karen Armstrong talk about science fiction and religion on NPR.
*here's a picture where you can see the beautiful color. That's a bag of water acting as a seal under the unscrewed lid--I think it should let the fermentation products outgas safely. I know, it's a small batch of sauerkraut, but there are only two of us, and it was only one head of cabbage. And oh, the smell of garlic.
(Guess what I making today?)
Ukrainian Christmas Cake (sorta)
(Other versions are less fluffy, do not have the yeast, do not have the sour cream/yogurt, do not have the sugar, are less labor-intensive, add fruit or nuts....)
1 pkg. dry granular yeast
3 tbsp. lukewarm water
1 cup honey (dark buckwheat honey is preferable)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream (I use whole milk yogurt)
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs separated
3 cups sifted flour (I use half whole wheat and half unbleached)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Grease your pan--rectangular cake pan or loaf pan(s).
Proof the yeast. Bring the honey to a boil and cool it slightly. The honey should be warm.
Cream the butter and sugar together with a hand-held mixer until light and creamy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and continue to beat until all is incorporated, then add the honey and sour cream and continue to mix. Add the yeast to the resultant batter; it's mostly for flavor. *g*
Beat the eggs whites to stiff peak. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Fold the flour mixture and the egg whites, alternating, into the cake batter as gently as possible so you do not lose the loft of the meringue.
Slide the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Give it a little while to set up, then invert pans on wire racks to remove cake and cool. But not too much; it's best warm.
And now I really want to make piroshkis.
But neither they nor medivnyk are really On The Discipline, now are they? And I am, again.
ETA: CAKE IS DONE!
And this is why the Inauthentic Borscht recipe calls for grating the beets in a clean sink. (I pour boiling water into mine to rinse after I scrub it down, before using it as a food prep surface.
And some of it wants to be borscht, dammit. And I have no time.
I have celeriac and beets and tiny potatoes and tiny sweet potatoes and parsnips and carrots and red cabbage and delicata squash and butternut squash and winter greens and no time to eat any of it.
Also, my good knives are still at the Grinch's shop at the North Pole. It's like an itch.
Next Thursday, little vegetable drawer. Thursday. You and me. We're going to have some fun together.
And I'm probably going to make Chaz's tiny potato salad for the Xmas eve open house thingy, and maybe I will just make a damned pot of borscht, even with the bad knives. I've cooked with worse and it's seasonal, dammit. Though I'll have to get more garlic.
One of the nice things about having Chaz Villette in my head is that his stress response is to cook. Not only am I becoming a better baker, but I get to eat his cooking. (Some of my characters are a little possessive of my headspace. Ahem.)
So tonight I made whole wheat chocolate cherry muffins (with black cocoa) (which needed more sugar, I think)
And a key lime pie.
Come over. Help eat.
...all right, time to head upstairs to pay attention to the cats and get some work done on Grail. Since I got 2K on "The Unicorn Evils" this morning and afternoon.
Now the burning question? Tea or beer?
...tea, I think. I know, I'm a failure as a bad influence sometimes.
Radio Paradise has been on a roll this week, I have to say. Stuff I like and stuff I suspect I will grow to like in equal proportions.
Today? More work on "The Unicorn Evils," which stands at 11,400 words, and then eventual climbing. I'm up, fed, showered, yogaed, beteaed, and the dog has been watered, fed, and run around the yard. He's very adamant about being on the sofa today: the floor must be cold. Or maybe he's hoping I will forget that I didn't finish brushing him last night while we were watching Zodiac. (I already knew how it came out, but I enjoyed Robert Downey Jr's pornstache and the incessant seventies porn. I don't think the seventies looked that much like the seventies, if you know what I mean.)
Tea today: Stash Crepe Fair
Teacup today: Gahan Wilson, sometimes the monsters hunt you. (The Jeff and netcurmudgeon refer to this as the Short Form Cthulhu Game.)
In other news, batwrangler has uploaded photos of the infamous Very Deep Deep Dish Apple Pie to her flickr account. So you can see just how impressive this thing actually was.
Here are my photos of its assembly, for context.
I'm afraid I can't offer a recipe, because I used the Boston Cooking School Cookbook pie crust recipe (doubled) and the filling is sort of my own--about six pounds each of Greenings, Northern Spy, and Macoun, cored, peeled, sliced, and par-cooked with limited quantities of brown sugar, vanilla, real (Indonesian) cinnamon, lemon juice, a little butter, and a little salt.
Then I drained off the rendered fluid and reduced it to a syrup, thickening with a few shakes of arrowroot at the end.
Line a springform pan with pie crust, fill with filling, top and seal, bake for over an hour in a medium-slow oven. (call it three hundred degrees, though I bumped it up at the end to get some browning.)
And now I have come home and my wrists are killing me, so I invented a drink.
I'm thinking of calling it a White Night, because it's a variant on the White Russian: cream, Chambord, and blueberry vodka.
Yes, I think I will make this again.
This is not a tragedy, as said microwave was left behind by the last inhabitants of this residence, and it's old enough that it has rotary dials and wood-grain.
But I am glad I didn't bother cleaning it today.
(1)If it's good with orange extract, it will be REALLY good with orange extract, Cointreau, orange juice, and bitter orange peel. Right?
(2) Yuppie wand blender is good for pulverising the cranberries into the yogurt. I thought they would be a bit much, whole.
Chaz's rosemary shortbread (with added lemon peel and extract!) and hey! author copies!!!!
Which means that soon, soon, BTMB will be in a bookstore near you.
And because Tolerant Dog is Tolerant:
(Buy this book or this dog starves.)
OMG, if you could smell my kitchen just right now....
ETA: And by msisolak's request:
- Go out in the back yard and pick your own greens for the sandwich
- Tiny pickled onions you pickled yourself
- Mint ginger limeade
- Roomie who brings home lunchmeats. Dog who begs really, really hard for liverwurst.
Taking a break to eat and start dinner, then back to grafting secondary characters into this novella.