Saturday, August 28, 2010

Because I Am Crazy

I went to the farmers market in the Small City on Thursday. Because, you know, I don't have ENOUGH produce sitting around in the garden and on my counters, breeding fruit flies in the dozens and forcing me to spend my every waking non-Cubby-wrangling moment canning, freezing, or otherwise preserving things.

I'm getting a little nuts, I think. That happens this time of year.


Because I am nuts, I went to the farmers market to fill in the gaps from our garden. Gaps like having no more bell peppers because the plants I think got too much nitrogen from the sheep-shit straw and grew huge and leafy without actually producing a whole lot of peppers. Useful.

Gaps like no eggplants because the eggplants were attacked by flea beetles, probably didn't get enough moisture, and also may be in a bit of a shady spot during some parts of the day.

I am a Master Gardener, yes.

Also gaps like needing multiple ears of corn. Because who can face the winter with a freezer barren of maquechoux? Not me. And certainly not the MiL, who loves that stuff even more than I do.

So off Cubby and I went to visit the real farmers and stock up. And home we came with two large eggplants, several bell peppers, and three dozen ears of corn. The eggplants are still in the refrigerator, awaiting their fate in eggplant parmesan (the highest calling for an eggplant, in my opinion), there are still a couple of the bell peppers awaiting the next round of salsa-making, and the rest of the peppers and two dozen ears of corn went into a double batch of maquechoux. The other dozen was blanched and cut off the cob for freezing plain.

Did you know cutting the kernels off of three dozen ears of corn causes significant hand cramping? Yes. Although at least I didn't have corn kernels all over the floor, thanks to the magic bundt pan!

And now that I have mostly disposed of the farmers market produce, I can get back to my own hot peppers and peaches and pears and tomatoestomatoestomatoes forever and ever.

Is it winter yet?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Slipping Into Something Comfortable

Do you ever have those days when it's obvious to the rest of the world that it is, in fact, Thursday, but in your own stubborn, thick head it is TOTALLY FRIDAY? Yeah, that was me yesterday. I persisted in thinking it was Friday pretty much all day, even though I even went to the farmers market in the Small City, which is only open Tuesday and Thursday. Even after THAT, I kept thinking it was Friday.

Who can fathom the mysterious workings of my admittedly limited mind?


Now that it is Friday, let's have an Audience Participation Day! WHEEE!!!

You know you love them.

Today's APD brought to you by my slippers, which I am wearing for the first time in months. Ahhhh, the comfort.

I spend all fall, winter, and spring in my slippers, day and night when I'm in the house. Even sometimes outside, when I'm in the house and need to unexpectedly run out of the house to, say, futilely attempt to get marauding sheep out of my garden or yell at the dogs when they bark at cyclists on the road.

My slippers get a lot of use, in other words. But in the summer, when it's hot? Forget it. Ain't no way I'm swathing my feet in wool. So in the summer I live in my sandals, indoors and out. But it finally started cooling down, and now I have my beloved slippers back on. I prefer wool slip-on slippers--the kind that cover about three-quarters of my foot but are open in the back for easy on and off.

So now, let us turn the discussion to you, poppets: What is your preferred housebound footwear? Slippers? Flip-flops? Shoes? Or do you eschew all foot-related containment systems and instead go all barefoot-and-in-the-kitchen style?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Shirt Says It All

Although the wearer looks a little skeptical . . .

Cubby hopes your weekend rocks at least as hard as I do. Peace out, duckies!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Public Service Announcement

I have publicly stated that I do not consider fruit to be a real dessert. This is still true for the most part, as I would take a slice of cake or a brownie over ANY kind of fruit preparation any day. Yes, including pie.

I'll give you pie people a moment to settle down now.

Are you over the sacrilege now? Okay, moving on.

Despite my scorn of Fruit as Dessert generally, I do make one exception. And I will now share this with you, so that you too may find your life a little more worth living with this little weapon in your dessert arsenal. You ready? Okay . . .

Sour cream and honey. YUUUUM.

See, what you do is, you mix the sour cream and honey into a kind of sauce for the fruit. I think this would work with a lot of fruits, though I have personally only had it with strawberries and peaches. Both fresh and at the height of their seasons, which I have to think makes a difference. So you just add however much honey you want--depending on how much of a sugar rush you want--to a couple of tablespoons of sour cream (I use maybe a teaspoon of honey for two tablespoons of sour cream) and either mix it all together with the cut-up fruit or use it as a dipping sauce. I bet you can guess which I prefer.

I love this so much that I actually prefer it to sugar and heavy cream. And that is saying something, indeed.

Go on, try it. You'll like it. I can almost guarantee it. And if you don't? Eh, so you're a fruit hater. Go have a piece of cake instead. I'll understand.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why I Will Never Write a Cookbook

I cannot for the life of me provide clear, detailed instructions necessary for another person to replicate what I cook. And that is because I am not a very good follower of recipes, and I very rarely make anything the same way twice.

It's a failing I've learned to live with.

However! Let it never be said that I do not respond to cries for help when it comes to salsa-making! Someone* asked for my salsa recipe a couple of days ago. More than one person in the past has also asked for my salsa recipe. I, in turn, asked the MiL's sister (she of the prolific green beans) for HER salsa recipe when I started canning it a few years ago. And, being a woman after my own heart, she told me she never uses a recipe. But she did tell me what she uses in it and the rough method. I can do no less for my loyal (though annoyingly Anonymous) readers.

So, without further ado, I present:

Kristin's Salsa Method that Is Not a Recipe

I must first state that this salsa is only safe for pressure canning. If you only can with a hot water bath canner, you can't can this salsa. It isn't acidic enough. In fact, salsa was the reason we got a pressure canner; I find the salsa recipes suitable for water bath canning disgustingly vinegary. I like vinegar, but I don't think it should be the main ingredient in salsa.

ANYWAY. Moving on . . .

After some experimentation, I have determined that it is useless to use anything but paste tomatoes to make salsa. That's because other varieties of tomatoes have too much juice and take too long to reduce to a pleasing salsa consistency, leading to overcooked salsa. So, my recommendation: stock up on paste tomatoes before you make salsa.

Step One: Prepping the tomatoes.

This is best done with all like tasks done together. It goes faster that way. So, for example, first you wash all the tomatoes. Then you cut off the stem end and slice them in half. Then you strip all the seeds out of the center. Then you cut them into about half-inch chunks. The size is not all that important, since they'll break down in cooking. Chuck 'em right into a pot.

I don't bother peeling. Some people do. Those people are much more patient than I. If you DO want to peel them, drop the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or so, then in cold water. The skins will come right off.

A couple of tips for faster--and therefore less rage-inducing--prepping: Make sure your knife is really sharp. There are few things more annoying (and dangerous) to cut with an even slightly dull knife than tomatoes. Also, keep a big bowl in back of the cutting board to dump all the seeds and tomato tops into. Saves you moving to the sink all the time to dump the refuse.

I fill my eight-quart pot all the way to the top with tomatoes. This uses about 40 pounds of tomatoes and makes about 12 pints of salsa. When the tomatoes cook down some, there will be room in the pot for the rest of the ingredients. So now you can put the pot on medium-high heat to start cooking the tomatoes. Stir it every once in awhile while you chop everything else. Which leads us to . . .

Step Two: Prepping everything else.

Dice a couple of big onions and throw them in. I don't like huge chunks of onion so I cut them fairly small, but do whatever works for you. Then dice a couple of green bell peppers and add them to the pot. Next up, four or five large cloves of minced garlic go in. Then a few minced jalapenos. This, of course, is totally dependent on how hot your peppers are and how hot you like your salsa. You'll have to experiment a little. Then a couple of tablespoons of cumin, quite a bit of salt that I never measure so just add a little and taste to see if it needs more, and a splash or two of plain old white vinegar. A couple of tablespoons maybe. Many people love cilantro and add it. I do not love cilantro and never add it. But you could add some chopped cilantro if you want.

Step Three: Cooking.

Cook. That's about all there is to say about that. You just let it all simmer over medium heat for a half hour or so, until it's the consistency you want. Stir it so it doesn't stick on the bottom, but really, how much instruction do you need on how to simmer something?

After it's as thick as you like, taste it again to see if it needs more salt or vinegar. Or whatever. Sometimes, if my jalapenos aren't very hot, I'll add bottled hot sauce.

And there you have it! Your very own salsa that you can make into your very own personalized recipe. I'm all about personal empowerment. That's really why I don't give exact amounts for anything.

Okay, okay--I'm really just too lazy to measure anything, but I think personal empowerment sounds better.

* Someone who insists on remaining Anonymous, despite the fact that I can tell this particular Anonymous is a fairly regular commenter. What's up with that, Anonymous? Out yourself already!

Monday, August 23, 2010


I took last night off. After Cubby went to sleep at 6:30, I didn't do anything. Well, that's not strictly accurate, since I did actually read a book and have a gin and tonic. OH, THE INDULGENCE.

What I did not do, however? Can tomatoes, blanch and freeze green beans, can peaches, make tomato juice, or make and can pickled jalapenos. Like I said, I took the night off.

Except then Cubby decided he was peckish about every two hours last night, so it wasn't so much a night off as about three hours off.

But they were a very nice three hours.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Unqualified Success

Everyone join me in a cheer, for I managed to complete a round of canning last night in which every jar lid sealed. WHEEE!!!

This shouldn't be such an accomplishment, but for some reason this year, it is. I didn't have any trouble with any of the jams and jellies. And the multiple pints of tomato juice all got satisfactorily sealed away in their small glass coffins. But then I started with the plain tomatoes, and those damn lids just did not do their jobs. In the first round, one jar didn't seal. Okay, chalk it up to bad luck, careless wiping of the rim before putting the lid on, whatever. But then, in the next round of plain tomato canning, two of the seven jars didn't seal. And in the first round of salsa canning, one of the ten jars failed to perform. Bastard.

The MiL is convinced that the jar lids seem to be getting chintzier over the years, and that the Ball company is actually making them with less rubber. Ball company? Are you out there? What have you to say in your defense? I must say, it does look suspicious. And there is no doubt that the newer jars themselves are a lot less sturdy than the older ones we have. Perhaps the same is true of the new lids.

Anyway, all 11 of my jars of salsa sealed nicely last night, so I'll let it go for now. But consider yourselves on notice, Ball company. I can't tell you how irritating it is to spend all that time peeling and stuffing tomatoes into jars, or chopping up an entire damn garden for salsa, only to have to put some of the jars of my hard-won product into the refrigerator where I have no room and THE WHOLE POINT OF CANNING THEM is so they don't take up room in my overloaded refrigerator or freezer.

So look into this issue for me, would you? Thanks so much.