Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cheese Bread: Our New Favorite

By accident, we discovered this most delicious bread - first on some hunting website, and then found similar recipes on actual cooking websites as well.  Here is our version:

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup small curd cottage cheese (I like the 4% variety)
  • 2 tablespoons butter - cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 and 1/4 cup of bread flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of bread machine yeast (or dry yeast for regular baking)
Place ingredients in bread machine, use "dough" cycle.  When done, punch down, knead enough to get air bubbles out (add some more flour if dough is too sticky).  Place in greased loaf pan and let rise a bit more.  Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  Bake bread for 25 minutes, until top is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and brush top with melted butter to keep the crust soft.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24 Garden Update

  • Harvested all green beans - they did not do too well this year, so we pulled out plants while harvesting.  We canned 26 quarts of green beans and made a huge pot of ham & bean soup
  • Besides cherry tomatoes, the first "Beef Heart" tomatoes are ripening
  • Melons are doing well with all the rain, picked a cantaloupe (not quite ripe yet)
  • We are up to 467 lbs of picked blackberries!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Boston Adventure Weekend

This past weekend we helped Anja, Duff and Leif move to Boston - which was more or less an adventure (depending on one's perspective) and involved a lot of helpers.  First Duff's family visited them in Pittsburgh - to participate in Duff's thesis defense, and then to help pack the moving van.  Duff's dad and brother had to fly back to Mississippi, but his mother, Melinda,  stayed on and helped move them all the way to Boston.  Zach and Rachel drove from Ohio to Pittsburgh,  stacking the remaining belongings onto their pick-up truck and also taking a load of things to their grandparent's garage in Mt. Lebanon (turned out the moving van Anja and Duff had rented was not quite big enough).

Everyone then drove to the "Long Shot Farm", for a night of rest.  Rachel, Toben and Fiona stayed at the farm to help Jeff pick blackberries, but Zach, Lars and Tina drove along to Boston.  So we had the moving van with Melinda and Duff, Anja's car with Tina, Anja and Leif, and Tina's truck with Zach and Lars.  We drove together, until Zach missed an exit and took the New York City route, while we went the scenic route through northern PA into New York State. 

We stopped at a hotel about one hour west of Boston for the night and then arrived at their new apartment on Saturday morning. Somehow, unpacking a moving van is always significantly faster than packing  and we unloaded the van in less than 2 hours!  The rest of the weekend was spent trying to help unpack boxes and arrange furniture.  Sadly, when we all left, there was still an awful lot of unpacking to do for Anja and Duff. 
unpacking the kitchen
Anja & Leif in living room

But their apartment is very nice, in an older building, with 10 ft high ceilings and pretty much space - considering this is Boston -  and just 2 miles from MIT.  Plus it had a very nice sized walk-in pantry and a plastered ceiling in the kitchen - and a lovely dining room with the built in china cabinet!

We returned today - which happened to be Zach's birthday.  Toben probably enjoyed the ice cream cake the most!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Refininshing Furniture - Just in Time!

Part of getting ready to help Anja and Duff move to Boston was keeping a very old promise:  to refinish our old baby bed and strip and finish a baby dresser.  Somehow, in the middle of picking blackberries, I had forgotten that I was to do this - and was gently reminded to not forget to bring the baby bed and dresser along for the move.  OOPS!  With less than a week to go, Jeff disassembled the crib, sanded it down, reglued and reassembled the entire bed, so that Tina could apply several coats of polyurethane.  At the same time, Tina stripped 3 layers of old paint and old stickers off a baby dresser which probably was made in the 40's or 50's (judging from the looks of the old stickers under the coats of paint).  Both pieces of furniture got several coats of polyurethane.  The last two coats were wet-sanded, meaning the polyurethane was applied with 400 grit sandpaper.  We just had enough days - luckily the moving "party" arrived one day later than planned on the way from Pittsburgh to Boston - and both pieces made it onto the truck for delivery.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15 Garden Update

Here is what we harvested last week:

- 20 heads of cabbage
- Cherry tomatoes (maybe a quart so far)
- zucchini every other day for a meal, plus zucchini bread
- still getting onions, red beets and potatoes as we need them
- 280 lbs of blackberries total so far!!

We traded blackberries for blueberries with our neighbor yesterday, and also took 32 quarts to the local fruit auction, just to see how that would work :)

We have been lucky and got some rain last week - one day it rained 1.5 inches in less than 30 minutes, but friends a few miles down the road had no rain at all.  And just now we had another heavy downpour, so far there is 1/2 inch in the rain gauge, and it is still raining (which is why I am on the computer and not outside).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hot, HOT Weekend - Time to Make "Shrub"

Although we did not break any records for extreme high temperatures, we had over 100 degree days on Saturday and Sunday. 
I did check NOAA's historic weather extremes for the Harrisburg/Middletown region for July and the record they showed was July 3, 1966 for 107 degrees. 
Needless to say, with that heat we did not get too much done outside.   We did pick blackberries very early on Saturday morning - from 6:30 to 9:00 am - froze 30 lbs and made seedless pulp from the remaining 23 lbs.  We decided to freeze the pulp for future jam making when the weather is cooler!  Also kept out 2 quarts of berries for our first experimental batch of "shrub".  Jeff scoured the Internet for blackberry shrub recipes, and decided to combine several ideas for our first attempt. 

Jeff's Blackberry Shrub:

2 quarts freshly picked blackberries
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Blackberry Shrub Milkshake
(Lars drank most of it before
we could take a picture)
Cover berries with sugar and let stand in refrigerator for 24 hours.  Strain juice (squeezing berries) through small sieve.  Add lemon juice, mix and keep in tightly covered glass jar in the refrigerator. 

This batch turned out to be tart and very refreshing!  Add some of the shrub to seltzer water, sparking wine, ginger ale or mix with sherbet.  Great ingredient for a smoothie that needs a bit of a sour kick.  Can be added to all sorts of mixed drinks - as long as the cocktail can handle the acid from the lemon juice.  The best use we found this evening was to mix some with vanilla ice cream and a bit of milk for a milkshake - the berry flavor really came out - it was delicious! 

We are not sure yet how much this mixture will change flavor over time.  The recipes calling for vinegar rather than lemon juice said that the flavor would change.  The recipes calling for lemon juice did  not mention flavor changes (probably because it was utilized quickly).  We also found a huge disparity within all the recipes regarding the amount of sugar - 2 cups was definitely on the very low end for the amount of berries we used.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July! Happy Berrypicking Day and . . . Happy Higgs Boson Discovery Day

The 4th of July is always a significant day - and a good day to re-read the Declaration of Independence

This year also marked our first day of "real" berry picking, meaning we picked all of the fruit bearing rows on both sides.  We ended up with 40 lbs today and combined it with the 5 lbs that Sam had picked two days before.  Our sole purpose was to make jam.  Did I mention that we had become desperate for blackberry jam?  Our stockpile had actually run out - this has never happened before.  So we filled our 22 quart stock pot with berries and heated them, then ran them through the food mill, using the berry screen to remove all seeds and made 7 batches of low sugar, seedless, deliciously tart blackberry jam. Yay!!!  We ended up with 27 pints and a bowl for use right now. (there were 12 lbs of berries that we could not fit into the pot - we froze those for later)

Our 4th of July feast included fresh buttermilk biscuits (used the Alton Brown recipe, which is great) with blackberry jam, grilled sweet potatoes, zucchini and mushrooms, as well as grilled chicken - and red beets and baked potatoes.

And the other important news of the day was that CERN announced the observation of a particle "consistent with long sought Higgs boson"

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 2 Quick Garden Update

  • Found first ripe cherry tomato
  • Finished harvesting and freezing broccoli (20 bags in total)
  • Picked enough nearly ripe blackberries off one row for a pie
  • Finished stringing 2nd row of wires in the blackberry patch
  • Tied up Apache blackberry shoots to the second wire
  • Ran irrigation, alternating between garden and berries
  • Chambourcin grapes are beginning to form
  • It was an incredibly hot and dry week! 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Coughdrop Jelly - Herbal Harvest Part 2

This afternoon our herb harvest and processing continued.  We cut bunches of oregano and hung it up in the kitchen to dry.  This should be done in time for spaghetti sauce making.  Also harvested some of our mint and tried a new recipe:
Orange Peppermint Jelly
  • 2 cups peppermint leaves
  • 4 cups orange juice (I used juice from concentrate)
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 six ounce pouch of liquid pectin
Place mint leaves in medium bowl.  Using a large stainless steel pot, bring the orange juice to a boil, and then pour juice over mint leaves.  Let this steep for about 30 minutes, then drain through a fine mesh sieve, squeezing out remaining juice from the mint leaves.  Discard leaves and return liquid to large pot.  Add sugar and lemon juice and bring to boil, making sure all sugar is dissolved.  Stir in pectin and bring to a full rolling boil.  Boil for one minute - mixture will foam a lot! (hence the large pot).  Skim off foam and ladle jelly in to prepared jars. (Jars need to be washed and hot - inserts need to have been placed in simmering water to soften the rubber).  Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and process in boiling water bath for 5  minutes.

I let Lars taste the skimmed off foam - which had set nicely before the water bath even came to a boil.  His reaction was that the jelly tasted just like cough drops!  While this is true, it is not at all a bad taste, rather sweet, with a lot of citrus and mint, just like the ingredients.  Almost like a minty lemon curd.  We'll see how this tastes in the middle of winter - we'll be sure to put it on Lars's toast whenever he gets a cold.

Pesto! Herbal Harvest Part 1

Started off this morning by cutting our basil plants back until I had 2 bowls of leaves for pesto.  Here is the recipe I used (3 times!):

  • 6 cups (firmly packed) basil leaves (cleaned and dried - I used a salad spinner)
  • 1.5 cups of walnuts
  • 1.5 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic (mine were rather large, so I cut them into 1/2 inch cubes first)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Put all ingredients into large food processor and pulse first, then run on low until mixture is nearly smooth.  We used our vacuum sealer, made small bags, and scooped about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of pesto into each prepared bag and then sealed and froze them. 

For lunch we made a quick pasta dish with pesto:  Boil 12 oz of noodles (Fuseli or Bow Ties work nice).  In the meantime, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add 1/2 cup of cream or half&half until hot. Add about 1/4 or more of the prepared pesto and heat through.  Dice up fresh tomatoes.  Drain pasta and make individual bowls - scoop in pasta, add some chopped tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese and cover with pesto cream sauce, mix together and enjoy!