Thursday, July 23, 2009

drowning in CSA

I thought I was doing a pretty awesome job keeping up with our CSA basket contents each week. Welllllll...... now that we are full swing and nearing the middle of the season I am drowning. 4 heads of lettuce today after we got 2 last week??!!!?!?! I think I scared Adam today when he brought home an empty spinach salad container from the store that he bought for lunch. "What the HECK???!!!! (of course I said heck) We have lettuce filling up the entire refrigerator and you BUY a freakin' salad?!?!" He stammered out some excuse but abruptly stopped, I think realizing his error but also my produce overload insanity. Needless to say, he will now be throwing those containers away at work =)
Here is what we received today...

lettuce, 4 heads
carrots, 1 bunch
beets, 1 bunch
broccoli, 2 heads
potato, 2 lb
cilantro, 1 bunch
cucumber, 2 each
summer squash, 4 each
brassica choice, 1 bunch: collard greens, kale, or chard
1 hanging basket of annuals
more cukes
blueberries, 1 PYO pint

I am freezing everything I can , but we are quickly running out of freezer space, I have not yet received the freezer I was promised, and OH! I forgot to mention half of our freezer is full of hops! Adam brews his own beer and fresh hops seem to keep appearing and of course it is preferrable that they be frozen. On the plus side, I should have some good beer related postings in the near future....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

a bit obsessed

Since I last posted I have been busy. Dill carrot pickles, marinated artichokes, strawberry jam and at the moment kiwi-apple-lime jam. I am having so much fun. The boys are asleep right now and I have the jam cooking while I blog and have a glass of wine. I am very content. I'm weird, I know. I think I'm so excited by this jam/pickle/preserve thing as I always thought it was very difficult and detailed. Now that I'm finding it is extremely easy and there is room to cut corners I am all about it. (Note to self: by more canning jars tomorrow..... All out, or should I say all filled.) The carrots and artichoke recipes were from the class I took last week. Here is a similar artichoke recipe, except I used crused red pepper. This recipe is pretty similar for the carrots. Basically, all you do is prep the ingredients (for carrots slice into sticks, for artichokes lightly cook or thaw frozen ones then pack the veggies in the jars), prep the jars (boil to sterilize - do this just before filling as you want to put hot food into warm jars to prevent cracking), make the pickling liquid (usually a combination of vinegar, water, salt and spices boiled until salt is incorporated), pour liquid over veggies into jars leaving 1/2" head space, place warmed lids onto jars and process (submerge in a pot of boiling water with at least 2" of water over jars) for as long as the recipe calls for. I need to learn more of the science, but a lot of pickling and times for cooking has to do with pH. I didn't process the artichokes - they keep for a few weeks refrigerated and I doubt they'll last that long.
The jam.... it bodes well for me that my family likes chunky jam (less nit-picky work). I have used less sugar with all of the recipes and the worst thing that has happened is that I need to cook it a little longer and that the jam may be a bit runnier than normal jam. I have not used pectin in any recipes yet - the fruits I've used had enough natural pectin or (as in the lime jam) I added apple which has pectin in it to help solidify the batch. I look forward to Charlie being older as many of the steps (e.g I crush the strawberries by hand because it works well and it is fun) he can help me with. I decided to put the baby gate up between the living room and kitchen though, as I just don't want him in there with all of the boiling. He is not a fan, and has already scaled the gate. Hmmm. Anyway - back to the canning - if you are intimidated, don't be! It is very easy and so much cheaper than store bought jam - and so much yummier, too.

Monday, July 13, 2009

raspberry jam

I used 3/4 the amount of sugar that this recipe calls for - it is still a little too sweet for my liking - I will use 4 cups berries to 2 cups sugar next time. Still yummy though. After ladling it into the jars I processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

canning - gaining confidence

I went to a class tonight held by our local farm on canning, preserving, freezing and drying. It was pretty good - I left with lots of recipes and lots of free (oh wait, I did pay to take the course!) produce. Here is the result of my work at the class - pickled beets and zucchini relish. Yummy and much easier than I thought it would be. Better go buy stock in vinegar - I'm looking to pickle everything at the moment.....

staple storage solution

I tend to buy lots of bulk items - flour, cous cous, lentils, popcorn, rice....... It has always driven me NUTS to have a pile of bulk bags and/or bags of other random ingredients held shut with a rubber band or a clip in a heap the cupboard. It looks awful and I can never see what I have. I've always thought it would be great to have a bunch of canisters like this to put all of those goodies in. Considering how many different things I buy and the cost of just ONE - umm, unrealistic! I came up with a solution (Ball's canning jars in a variety of sizes) that is much more my style and much more affordable (less than $1/jar). I LOVE the new system! Little things make me very happy =)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

freezer jam

I brought the kiddo strawberry picking today, which was quite entertaining. Once he figured it out, he would pick one, take a bite, throw it down on the ground with gusto and pick another (repeat). I tried to get him to eat the whole thing but no luck, so... I had to pick kind of quickly, then the skies opened up. Blah, blah blah, I ended up with less strawberries than I had hoped for, but still enough for 5 half pint jars of freezer jam and some other berries left over to freeze. My wish for a chest freezer has not come true yet (though I'm told it may), so in the meantime I really don't have a ton of freezer space to spare. Good thing it wasn't sunny and that my 15 month old wasn't a super helpful berry picker.

Onto the freezer jam. I had never heard of this phenomenon. Maybe I just wasn't listening. It is SO easy, and it made me feel so domestic. It is a quick recipe and stores in the freezer for a 6-12 months or 3 weeks in the refrigerator. It was also a money saver, because I got 5 or so pounds of berries for 8-9 dollars (after my CSA discount at the farm), and I made 5 jars of jam out of only 2/3 of them. Considering Adam eats PB&J most days for lunch, that is sweet! I am waiting for a month from now when he tells me he is sick of strawberry jam..... Again, I digress.

There are a couple different ways to make freezer jam. Ball's makes special pectin specifically for freezer jam. I bought 2 packages but did not use them today. I wanted to see if I could find a less sugary option. I found one in this recipe. It is good - different from regular jam - not as sweet (tastes more like you're just eating the fruit), and the agar makes it a tiny bit reminiscent of jello. It still spreads, but not like sugary yummy jam. I'm happy with it, but want to try the freezer jam pectin to test it out. The freezer jam pectin just puts me off a bit, as the list of ingredients is a bit longer than I'd like. We shall see. There are lots of other freezer jam recipes out there that I plan on reading and playing around with. I definitely recommend trying it.