Those precious peaches, nectarines, apricots, and cherries don't have a very long season around here, so we've been stocking up from our favorite farmers market fruit stand (cheapest organic fruit at the market) and making all kinds of jams, cobblers, pies, and ice cream with our hand cranked Donvier that we snagged at the thrift store for eight bucks. Whatever cherries didn't go into this gorgeous pie, the lattice topping compliments of my six year old (didn't she do a great job?),
or into the several pints of cherry, chocolate, pistachio ice cream that we've been non-stop churning out
2 cups cherries blended
2 eggs well beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. vanilla
* mix together and then add
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup chocolate shavings
1 cup cherry chunks
* prepare according to ice cream maker instructions
I froze. They'll come in handy later when in season fruit is scarce.
I'm so bummed that I didn't get my flat of apricots that I ordered from my CSA this year. Their apricots really do make the best butter. But I did save enough from my weekly boxes that I was able to squeeze out four jars. Needless to say, I won't be sharing. Sorry.
This year I tried something a little different: peach jam with honey, which wasn't strictly peach or any one variety for that matter - I included both white and yellow peaches and nectarines. The cheap fruit is great, but it all tends to ripen at the same time, needing to be used up because it is attracting fruit flies, thus the mixed up jam. The flavor is fantastic and a bit more complex than my usual fare. I'll definitely make it again this way. Goes great on muffins made from a recipe that I got from one of my kitchen bibles, The Country Mothers Cookbook by Jane Watson Hopping, a.k.a. The Pioneer Lady. If you have a penchant for old, old school home cooking, this lady's recipes are for you. I haven't made any dish from her books that I didn't love.
Berries have a longer season in our area than the stone fruits, so it wasn't crucial that I move into high gear on this one. But as I was on a roll, I figured "what the hey," let's just get it done while the iron's hot, as they say. The blueberry jam came out perfect, but I think I burned the sugar on the ollalieberry (a similar berry to blackberries, but bigger). I doubled the recipe without using pectin and had to cook it for too long to get it to sheet. Oh well. Live and learn. I still have strawberry jam from last year - it's not our favorite - so I won't need to make any this season. We are needing to replenish the frozen strawberries and strawberry syrup though. I use the syrup to flavor yogurt, since it's one of those foods that always seems to have unecessary ingredients added to it..
I would love to say that all this fruit comes from our backyard, but since our fruit trees are in their first year, the ollalieberry vines didn't make it, and the blueberry bushes are looking mighty sad, we buy our berries in bulk from either the farmers market or Swanton Berry Farm's u-pick.
Only Ute and I went to the u-pick this year and let me tell you, she was a real trooper. It took us about 3 hours to get all of our strawberries and ollalieberries that will see us through the year, a challenge for any young tyke. But Ute took it in stride, and when she got bored with berries, she made altars for the fairies and ran up and down the rows of tangled vines.
Living in a city, Ute just doesn't get enough running around outside time with limited supervision. At her age, I was roaming my small town neighborhood with barely a hint of the adult gaze upon me. I am saddened that she will never experience that kind of freedom, but trips to the farm give her the occasional taste.
Last week I was at my friend Christine's house in Alameda when out of her second story bedroom window I spotted the most exquisite Meyer lemons. Their plump, juicy yellowness at the zenith of ripeness beckoned to me and as if in a dream, I floated towards the glass. The next thing I knew, I was hanging out the window, plucking the sweet scented spheres and chucking them onto the bed. I wrasseled that tree in full Crocodile Hunter style, with a ferocity that only a true champion of the Meyer lemon could exhibit. My friend found me draped over a tree limb with only my knees planted firmly against the edge of the sill to prevent a 15 plus foot fall. With slack-jawed bemusement, Christine admitted that she had been trying to figure out how to get those lemons for years. I felt like MacGyver.
The lemons were pretty darn ripe and needed to have something done with them and fast. I went with the Moroccan salt preservation method. They'll be great in a late summer tagineperfumey foods, though Ute and I thought it was delicious.
Speaking of flowers, I've been making syrups with the backyard lavender and roses. The lavender syrup is definitely a touch too heady, but I think it might work over a pound cake.
The neighbor's had a whole mess of roses that were getting eaten up by earwigs so I harvested the petals and made rose syrup. Tastes great in hot tea. With the way I consume the Queen's drink, however, I doubt that the jar will last two weeks!
I've been preparing a lot of poultry lately and as most of you know, I'm not one to waste any bit of the bird. At a recent dinner party, I believe I actually screeched at my guests to not throw away the bones. Clearly I won't be winning any "hostess of the year" awards in the near future. In my book, nothing compares to the rich broth that comes from simmering the bones of a well spiced, roasted bird. The flavor of the broth reflects the way the the meat was prepared and the types of seasonings used, creating a stock that is always unique. At this point, I can't even bear to use canned stock, its flavor so inferior as to be nearly inedible. If you've never made your own broth, just try it. It's easier than you might think. I just throw the carcass or bones into a roasting pan, fill up with water, and simmer in a 350 oven for several hours, checking, of course, that the water doesn't completely evaporate.
At same said dinner party, while attempting to dazzle my companions with my special Moroccan chicken, I forgot to pull a roast duck out of the oven that was taking longer to cook than I had expected. Well I cooked the crap out of that duck, consequently feeling an utter failure with my first attempt to prepare this kind of bird. In the midst of me wailing on and on about the damn duck, one of my lovely guests turned to me and with a tone of seriousness that I can only liken to a military command said "I'll tell you how you are going to fix that duck." I snapped out of my little pity party. "How?" "You're going to make a confit by shredding the meat and marinating it in the fat from the pan." "Are you sure that will work? Won't it still be tough?" I queried. "No way," says my pragmatic friend, "It's going to be soooo succulent with all that duck fat." And then she did this lip smacking thing that was kind of gross. But she was right. It was scrumptious enough to make slightly disgusting gestures and sound effects with one's face.
Did you hear that stores are pulling Kombucha from the shelves because they're worried about the alcohol content? Apparently, it might be more boozy than once thought. I'm thinking the whole thing is a bit overblown. I've had my fair share of experiences with alcohol and am no stranger to its effects, even if I no longer partake. Though I have felt a little "high" after drinking Kombucha, I certainly have never felt remotely drunk, even being the light weight that I am.
Frankly, I'm stunned that folks will lay down three plus bucks for a small bottle of the stuff from Whole Foods when you can make gallons of it for pennies. And the making is really not complicated. When I started my SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), I had my panties all in a stir, worried that I was going to mess it up and poison myself with some unwanted mold, but it's really as simple as making a pot of tea. A POT OF TEA! Really. I'm totally not exaggerating.
Ute and I really like the stuff, so we've got two cultures going at the same time. Esteban says he'll just stick with his beer that he's been home brewing (details to come). Fine, more for us I say.
What have you all got going on in the kitchen right now?