In a jam

Hi, hi, how you all been? It’s summer! Who blogs???

Here’s a story about a jam:  As I got the last jar of jam out of the cupboard the other day and patted myself on the back for having made enough jam to get us through a whole year, I started getting excited about jamming season. So far, jamming season is kind of s0-so.

First batch (Rhubarb-ginger) turned out really well but the lids didn’t pop so I have to keep them all in my fridge –  or re-boil and re-jar, but – more on that in a bit – that’s not tempting right now. Second batch – Strawberry-Rose Petal (oooooh la la! Just for you, P!). According to my 25$ candy thermometer the jam refused to attain the setting temperature of 220 F. After what seemed like ages I decided to jar it anyway and ended up with 8 nicely sealed, lid-popped, jars of strawberry soup.

A couple days on the counter, a soupy toast-test, and I decided to re-boil the jam. I added a BIT of rhubarb to make extra sure that it would set. I did the cold-plate test (sucks) AND used the thermometer (defective?). I jarred the jam. Or should I say, the strawberry- flavoured super-ball. It seemed fine when I poured it in but it is now bounceable. AND the lids didn’t pop!!!  so much for the 25 bucks.

So apparently this is rescue-able; I will likely try a re-boil-and-add-water so as not to waste all those berries… I’ll let you know, if you’re THAT interested. But what I really wanted to do, is make you all jealous by sharing with you what is making me happy these days despite the jams I seem to be getting myself into. Go ahead and laugh; this is a Gratitude List.

No, two lists:

Things That Could be Improved:

1. Jam consistency and lid sealing

2. My kayak roll

3. Screaming wake ups at midnight and also screaming wake ups at 5 am (not me).

4. The length of the summer and of related Summer Vacation

5. The number of strawberry plants that survived out of the 25 that I planted

6. The price of a plane ticket from Montreal to Gaspe and/or the days that VIA decides to send a train to Gaspe.

Things that I get out of bed for, despite above list:

1. Coffee outside.

2. Getting to the beach before 9 am. With a big bodum of coffee.

3. Elsie and Frida’s naked buns on the beach.

4. Watching the gaaaah-den grow. Especially the kale, I love watching the kale. The potatoes are going to take out the beans tomorrow or the day after, I have a mission to hold them back.

5. Having gaaaah-den missions.

6. Beer. Outside, where else?

7. Dinner outside, Barbeques;

8. When the dog DOESN’T break his chain and terrorize the neighbors.

9.  5 à 7 invitations that end in T-bones and birthday cake.

10. Kilombo.

11. Having booked a babysitter for 2 nights of the Festival du Musique du Bout du Monde so we can take my folks to see Sargent Garcia – Buenos Noches, Gaspéééééééééé!!!!!!!!

To summerize, basically – summer. In summerum. Summerily.

I think I just wanted to write that down to come back to in the depths of next winter, when we’re snowed in cause Duane won’t plow us out any more cause his wife hates our dog, and it’s April, and we’re still snowed in, and everyone in Montreal is wearing halter tops and drinking daiquiris, and I can’t even go toboganning cause the toboggan blew away, and it’ll never, ever, be summer again…

Here’s to Gaspé in the summer. Come visit. Our neighbor has a basement apartment he rents out.

 

 

Not-so-crafty/3 things with pears Part 2

Part 2:     3 Things With Pears

(for Part 1: Not-so-crafty, please click here)

So is there a recipe here or what?

This year, I am giving homemade stuff for Christmas, because I hate shopping already and shopping with a baby is even less of a party.  This probably doesn’t count as “craft” – more like, “canning” or “cooking”. And, sorry, it does require a modicum of effort, so if you’re only reading this because you were hoping for another “no-effort” recipe, you can skip on back to Regretsy.

Pear-Vanilla Butter & 2 other things with pears

Pears are on super special right now. But I don’t really like pears that much. I find the texture  bitty and weird and they lack the satisfying crunch of an apple. The skin is kind of papery and sticks in my teeth. But I really like pear-flavoured things. And vanilla-flavoured things. And jam. So this recipe caught my eye and I made it in the summer. It’s got a beautiful, delicate flavour, is not too sweet, and is so gorgeous, flecked with those little vanilla seeds. The recipe I found in Classic Preserves by Catherine Atkinson & Maggie Mayhew. It’s jam-packed with tempting recipes, from jams and jellies to chutneys, relishes and mustard. For the ol’ holiday season, I made a few of their recipes and they all seem to be working out. Everything I’ve made from the book has been delish. I’ve adapted this recipe a little cause I found it a bit tangy.

Ingredients:

2 lb pears, peeled, chopped

juice of 2 lemons

1 1/4 cups water

1 vanilla bean, split

3 1/2 cups sugar

You also need:

about 2 1/2 cups worth of mason jars and their lids.

1. Place the pears in a large pot with the lemon juice, water and vanilla pod; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Then uncover and cook for 20 minutes more or so, till the pears are soft.

2. Remove the vanilla pod from the pot and scrape the seeds into the pear mixture. Blend the fruit with the appliance of your choice till it becomes a smooth purée. At this point, if you’ve made a double batch like I did, you can take half out and freeze this pear-vanilla sauce for when your 5 month-old is ready to eat fruit.

3. Now measure the amount of purée you have, as you place it back into the pot. Add half as much sugar as there is purée (e.g. if you have 4 cups of purée, add 2 cups of sugar.) Stir over low heat till the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, put the jars and lids on a baking tray, place the tray in a cold oven, turn the oven on to 225 F, and bake the jars for 30 minutes to sterilize them.

4. Boil for 25 or so minutes, or until the mixture is quite thick and somewhat golden. It will be sputtering all over the place and making a big sticky mess on your stovetop, floor, and walls.

5. Take the jars out of the oven and ladle the hot butter into the hot jars. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth, and put the lids on immediately. Put the jars in a nice quiet place where they won’t be disturbed for 24 hours. If the lids don’t seal (the top doesn’t pop), then put the jam in the fridge. If it seals, you can keep it at room temperature for a good long while. Let it sit for a couple days for the flavours to mature before eating. For more great info on canning in general, check out foodinjars.com.

P: im soo hungry

what are we going to do over xmas

let’s think of projects.

me: besides watching 6 ft under?
projects eh… like making wreaths?

P: sure
sort of
only not that

(5 minutes)
me: what then?
P: making pine cone figurines/

On a side note, it was Ben’s birthday recently, and since he’s not into cake (???!!!), or pine-cone figurines, I made him a pear-cranberry crisp: 

Before the crispy part got put on. Pears, cranberries, vanilla and sugar…
It was really divine, especially the next day.

Pear-cranberry Crumble

For the topping: Credit goes once again to 101cookbooks.com for this amazing crumble topping recipe that has topped rhubarb, raspberry, blackcurrant and now pear crisps in our house. I’ve adapted it somewhat.
3/4 cup / 3 oz / 85 g all-purpose or spelt flour
2/3 cup / 3 oz / 85 g sunflower seeds or chopped nuts of your choice, lightly toasted (pecans would be good here if your boyfriend isn’t allergic)
1/2 cup / 1.5 oz / 45 g rolled oats
1/2 cup / 2 oz / 60 g sugar (preferably brown, turbinado or natural cane sugar)
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup / 2.5 oz / 75 g unsalted butter, melted
Fruit part:
4 pears (about 1 lb of fruit)
1 cup cranberries (can be frozen)
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 tsp corn starch
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F and butter a square pan (8″ x 8″)
  2. Combine the topping ingredients in a medium bowl and stir in the butter. Form it into balls with your hands (some crumbs are OK, balls can be uneven) and pop it into the freezer for 10 minutes or so to harden.
  3. Meanwhile, chop up about 4 peeled and cored pears. Toss them in a large bowl with about a cup of cranberries (mine were frozen) and the juice from half a lemon.
  4. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds out into the sugar mixture. Mix till it’s uniform (a whisk works well, or a jar with a lid) and toss with the fruit.

5.  Put the fruit in the pan with the vanilla bean halves. Pull out the topping from the freezer and crumble it over the fruit, making sure there are big bits and little bits.

6.  Bake till the top is nicely browned and the fruit is bubbly and tender. Serve with vanilla ice cream (nothing crappy, please) or just leave it on the counter with a fork in the pan.

So, just cause I like 3 of things, here’s another cooked pear recipe from SmittenKitchen that I can’t wait to do again: vanilla-roasted pears …TO DIE FOR.
Happy Hollerdays!!

Not-so-crafty/3 things with pears part 1

This is a long post, to keep you going over the hollerdays. I’m posting it in 2 parts to make you feel like you got 2 posts! Part one:

Not-So-Crafty

I just love DIY and crafting-  well, I love the idea of it.  I’ve dabbled in knitting, failed miserably at sewing, have produced a box of greeting cards or two, and am a relatively competent gift-wrapper (relative to my 2-year old). I made our compost bin out of wooden pallets and it’s still standing, 3 years later. I’ve gone through about 3/4 of a bottle of Podge, that weird glue/glaze product. However, despite the encouragement of a mom-friendly site that sends sent me weekly updates on my childrens’ development, along with creative activity ideas to do with the littl’uns, I have not yet found it within me to “whip up a pinecone turkey” for thanksgiving, and my “memories” are not saved in pumpkin-seed frames.

Still, I really do enjoy making my own (useful) stuff. During my studies in experiential education, we spent a lot of time discussing the merits of crafting, how it brings a sense of accomplishment, an understanding of where things come from, an appreciation for material objects in today’s disposable world, a way to connect to our history and our traditions. To further explore the idea I made my own canoe paddle out of a plank of ash. This counted for university credit. It also brought me enormous pride and satisfaction, and still does, every time I paddle with it.

During my foray into the world of wool (which I am reluctant to admit has ended, despite the balls of yarn strewn hopefully about the house), I knit mostly tuques and mitts (very close to instant gratification). I didn’t really get into sweaters cause they use a lot of yarn, take forever to knit and after all that, they don’t really turn out well. Much easier to find a sweater that fits at Gap. But I did give it 2 tries. The second sweater I knit was fuchsia and spring green mohair. It had bell sleeves and a very open, airy weave. I knitted it while I lived and worked at an outdoor education centre (lots of knitters there), and one evening I was working on it in the kitchen of the staff house when I lamented to my friend Craig, “AArrrrgghhhh – I think it’s going to be too big!” He looked at it and said, “Too big? For DAVE? no way!” Dave was a 6-foot, close-to-200 pound guy I was involved with in a very unofficial way. I don’t know what I found more hilarious – that Craig thought I would spend that much time knitting a sweater for a guy I was marginally involved with, or that he thought I was so clueless as to choose to knit a pink and green bell-sleeved mohair sweater for a dude.

The sweater did turn out to be too big (for me), but I wore it a few times before getting annoyed with those airy sleeves getting caught on everything. I decided it would be a great idea to wash the sweater in order to intentionally shrink it. This is an actual technique in knitting known as “felting”; I did not make it up. Anyway, after about 30 seconds in the wash, I checked on it, and it was so small I couldn’t even foist it on my friend’s 3-year-old.

Not one to blithely throw away this creation I had toiled over for so long, I decided to chop it up and make the sleeves into arm-warmers. After I put down the scissors I realized that I didn’t want arm-warmers.  They were uneven. And they left these little mohair bits all over everything. And my arms weren’t cold anyway.

Finally I took the body part and cut out mitt shapes and sewed them together. At this point I was very proud of my craftiness. I was sure I had finally produced something useful from all those balls of mohair I had knitted up so long before. Here is the finished product:

Don't you want this mitt?

I painstakingly sewed them up, imagining myself strolling around, filled with satisfaction, wearing these great, homemade mitts. I pulled them on triumphantly and discovered that the “airiness” of the original weave had resulted in holes in the mitts. In the fingers. And the mohair bits were still going all over everything. My pride forced me to wear them once – to the store to buy myself some mitts.

Owning a 60-year old house (I suspect the builders were into “crafting”, too), we have lots of opportunities for fun, family-time DIY. Like tiling around the woodstove (that’s now falling off, 3 years later, one tile at a time). Or the window frame in the kitchen that is ever so slowly inching toward completion, at a rate of approximately one expertly-measured board per 3 months (we’re up to 6 out of 8 now). I experienced a small measure of success recently “tiling” the backsplash in our kitchen (with stick-on tiles. Yes, stickers). More and more, we’re deciding to hire experts who know what they’re doing to complete “DIY” tasks around the house, such as stacking our firewood.  When I start to get down on myself about our inability to perform simple home-maintenance tasks such as these, I recall that P doesn’t even own pliers:

Washer/dryer delivery guys: Do you have pliers?
P: No.
DGs: Well, you’ll need pliers to tighten this, and we’re not really supposed to install it for you.
P: It’s really not possible to do it by hand?
DGs: No, water will go everywhere. Don’t worry though, your boyfriend will come install it for you. He has pliers.
P: (withered look)

The “withered look” has been utterly perfected by my sister: the W/D delivery guys magically produced a pair of pliers and somehow managed to skirt the rules and installed the washer for her. Now THAT’S crafty!

Now, before we delve into the crafty stuff that I actually CAN do (that’s a pun, you’ll get it later), I feel the need to share something that made my day. An article in the Globe & Mail talked about craft culture and how some crafty folks are finally seeing the humour in the homemade. I had never heard of the site they referred to: to my delight, etsy.com is a website where you can sell your homemade goods.  I have not explored all the nooks and crannies of this doubtless fascinating site, because I was distracted by a sort of spoof site called Regretsy which finds all the gems on Etsy and parodies them. I am SO happy that there is a hurricane outside cause I don’t feel in the least bit guilty about staying inside and reading Regretsy. I keep going back to the Age Inappropriate category….

This heartwarming drowning-baby welcome gift will set you back only 25$.

I’m tempted to put those mitts on Etsy and see if I can find me a buyer.

Click here for part 2…