Sunday, June 24, 2012

Homebodies

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Our plum tree is starting to ripen, and so this weekend I made our first batch of plum jam.  It tastes fantastic, and hopefully it will set to a nice texture.  For my own records, the recipe was as follows:

One gallon bag of frozen windfall plums, with water to almost cover
One trug-full of picked plums, some slightly under-ripe 
Juice of three huge lemons
Five pounds of white sugar
A few tablespoons of pectin, tossed in at the end in a moment of panic, probably pointless

I cut the plums roughly in thirds, and didn't bother trying to remove the pits.  I chucked the frozen plums in a big stockpot, and added enough water to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  When the frozen plums were starting to soften, I added the fresh plums.  I cooked this until the whole thing got soft, and then fished out the pits.  At this point, I cursed myself for not buying a candy thermometer.  I added the sugar, and brought the whole thing to a boil.  I added the lemon juice.  At the last minute, I mixed some pectin into a bowl of water, stirred some of the jam into the mix, and then added all that to the pot.  I doubt it did any good, but if I don't record that fact somewhere, I'll never remember it.

I learned something important today about that trick of putting saucers in the freezer and then testing the viscosity of molten jam on those cold saucers.   I learned that this is a very effective way to crack vintage dinner wear.  Duh.  Drop something boiling hot on something freezing cold, and what do you expect?  Next time, I need to use something metallic instead of glass or china.




Our plum drops loads of fruit, which we happily collect off the ground.  Some of it gets cracked when it smashes to earth.  We cut off the damaged bits, and freeze the fruit until we've got enough to cook with.

The chickens, who are crazy about grapes, have almost no interest in plums.  Our silly birds don't seem to realize that one of the main reasons I got them was because I understood that chickens ate kitchen scraps.  Likewise snails.  Our chickens did not get the memo about the fact that I expect them to eat the snails that over-run my garden.  I've read that some folks teach their chickens to eat snails by cutting (live) snails into dainty bite-sized pieces.  (Bleuuuuuurgh.)




Okay, enough on that subject.  Aren't the plums beautiful?  We're so fortunate to have this lovely old tree in our yard.

I've been doing a bit of yard work.  I scored some hand-me-down foxgloves and primroses, and planted them under our plum.  I dug unwanted coffee beans into the vegetable beds.  I gave the fennel a drastic haircut. I moved the volunteer squash (or pumpkins, or melons, whatever) to their own bed.  I planted a few more lettuce seedlings.  The place is still a mess, but I know that I've been busy.




Robb worked on our fence.  One of the first things I did when we moved in was kick down a rotting trellis that functioned, more or less, as a fence.  We've got fences around much of our yard, but we're missing enough to make it possible for the chickens to roam freely.  We don't need to learn the answer to all those jokes about why the chicken crossed the road.

Robb has been working to improve our fence situation.  Our existing gate is a do-it-yourself job that apparently dates to 1925.  When Robb removed on of the fence-posts, he exposed a section of completely unpainted wood on the side of our house.  Wowie.

As it stands, the current gate is a rickety mess, that allows free passage for neighborhood raccoons, and that neither of us particularly like.  It can be best described as "random."

Robb and I decided to go with classic French Gothic pickets, and Robb made paper mock-ups, to see how we liked their appearance.  (Scroll back up to see this.)



By the end of the day, Robb had cut all of the pickets (out of wood that we scrounged from the back yard).  He tacked them in place, and we admired his handy-work.  He's awesome, that Robb.



Also awesome is all of the fermenting we've been doing.  This is some fermented Napa cabbage that Robb put together last weekend.  How have we never done this before?  It's the simplest thing in the universe!  It's delicious, and it's SPICY!  Since I finally got serious about my nightshade allergies, I haven't eaten spicy food at all.  I really miss food that "bites back."  This home made kimchi/sauerkraut really hit the spot.  We've eaten almost all of it already.

We've also been making kefir, which is a kind of fermented milk beverage.  If you find photos of fermented cabbage dull, you should be thankful that I'm not making you look at pictures of weird lumpy milk.

So how about you, blog friends?  What have you been up to?

8 comments:

Bungalow Boxer said...

Do you have directions on how to make the kimchie (spelling?). My husband LOVES the stuff, and I would love to make him some :-)

Thanks Lisa and Robb!

Anonymous said...

My apricot trees are going nuts! We have three or four different varieties of apricot trees that line our drive way. Threy are in allstages of ripeness from hard green to rotting on the ground. I have a nifty new hand crank machine that is supposed to remove the skins from the pulp and leave you with a lovely purée. I want to make jam and nectar with the purée and save some apritcots to quarter to soak in rum until the holidays.

~Traveling Garden Gnome

Robb said...

Bungalow--

This isn't strictly kim chee since it only contains cabbage. It is, though, the simplest thing in the world: 1)Cut up a head of cabbage. I sliced it very thin. 2)Put it in a bowl with some kosher salt and crush it with your hands or a masher until a lot of water is released. 3)Put it in a big jar, water and all, and tamp it down until the water covers the top. 4)Put a lid on it and leave it on the counter for a day and half. Then taste. If it's good, stick it in the fridge. The longer it's left out, the more it ferments, the stronger the flavor becomes.

Then Robb had another thought and said...

Oh yeah... Use Napa cabbage.

zippiknits said...

Well, since you asked...I wanted to make Kimchi but my hubby nixed that; he says he hates it. But my grandmother and mom used to make pickled cabbage and other pickles. I used to make bread and butter pickles from my grandmother's recipe. I will be growing some sprouts under the sink again. :-)

When I can string together some decent time and energy, I'm going to make Orange Marmalade again, hopefully from purchased blood oranges and some Myers lemon marmalade from out tree stash.

Ouch on that bite! Nature really knows how to get us when it wants to, eh?

Karen Anne said...

Ducks eat snails.

Debbie said...

We've been up to moving from California to Fort Collins, Colorado.
We just got to our new home on Friday and have been unpacking like mad. I thought I had purged a lot of stuff before we moved, put I think another purging is in order.

Tamsyn said...

What have I been up to, you ask? Well, besides assorted dinner parties every month (there's room at the table for the two of you Saturday -- it's a vegetarian meal, no nightshades), I can sum up a lot of my culinary time lately in one thought: ice cream! I got a machine at the end of February, and I've made 22 flavors so far (some multiple times, about 30 quarts). My favorite flavors thus far are probably the backyard mint, star anise with candied fennel seeds, and one from your neck of the woods: Panforte, from a Berkeley scoop shop. It's flavored with cinamon, nutmeg, cloves, and honey, and has toasted almonds and candied citrus peel mixed in. The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World, Mango sorbet, roasted strawberry & buttermilk, and (finally, over Labor Day) vanilla bean are all good too. Miss you!

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