love in a jar.

I spent a couple of days at my parents’ house this week celebrating my dad’s birthday and canning peaches with my mom. We canned 37 jars (quarts and some 1.5 pint jars), and my mom let me have 18 to hoard savor here at the lake house. (We ate the contents of one of the jars with breakfast on Friday morning.)

Because we don’t have class on Labor Day (which hasn’t always been the case), I was able to hop in the car on Wednesday afternoon and be there in time for dinner! Boh and I returned on Friday for an afternoon meeting, and because I don’t have to get all of my grading and prep done for Monday, I still have time to enjoy the sunshine AND get both dissertation and teaching work done before Wednesday. Or at least that’s my hope.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! (And stay tuned for more knitting!)

saturdays are for dinner parties.

Dear friends came for dinner last night. (Boh was on cloud 9.) Y’all know I love to play in the kitchen, but I especially like cooking both for and with D and T — we have similar tastes (well, aside from D’s brutal hatred for all things eggplant), we belong to the same farm, and we always have a good time together. They brought homebrew, a bottle of homemade limoncello for my freezer(!), beer brewed with Japanese hops for us all to try (it DOES taste like “sunshine in a glass”), and tortilla chips for the mostly-tomatillo-with-a-peach-thrown-in salsa I made. And I decided to test out some new-to-me recipes based on what could be found in my fairly full fridge. After lots of drooling over recipes on my computer screen, I settled on two ideas from Deb over at smitten kitchen: scalloped tomatoes with croutons, and everyday chocolate cake. I paired the tomatoes with a salad of very peppery arugula, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and cherry tomato confit with a homemade vinaigrette with a bit more honey than I usually use. I was really happy with how everything turned out — these recipes have earned spots in my kitchen binder!

Also, here are the results of peaches +bourbon, take two. I did use the immersion blender to make this more sauce-like, and I’m thrilled with the consistency: thicker and smoother, but with chunks of peach.

And here’s what I’m casting on later this morning. I’ve been meaning to start a hat for D. He’s sporting a new haircut these days, and as the weather gets a bit colder, I want to contribute a hat or two to his headgear collection. I was inspired by the Windschief that Laura posted yesterday, so I hopped over to Ravelry to look through other people’s FOs, and ultimately, purchase and print out the pattern. I’m using tosh worsted in malachite, and I’m psyched to cast on.

I really should be reading all day today, but I’m going to allow myself at least a little bit of time for knitting…

peaches + bourbon = weekend.

I subbed bourbon for the rum in Kaela’s Pirate Peaches, and boy, am I excited to enjoy these. My entire kitchen (okay, apartment) smells slightly of sweetness and spirits. (Yep, present tense. Batch number 2 is simmering away on the stove, prompted by the fact that a tiny piece of peach prevented one of my jars from sealing properly. Rather than re-process a single jar, I dumped the contents back into the pot with another pile of peaches that were macerating in the fridge, along with the partial jar of leftovers that I didn’t process yesterday [to get me back up to 3 lbs of peaches], added more sugar, more booze, and the appropriate amounts of lemon juice and zest, and I am once again enjoying the aroma of peaches simmering in bourbon.) This time, I’m going to try to get the peaches a bit softer than they were yesterday, and I may even break out the immersion blender to make more of a sauce. I ran into trouble yesterday with the ratio of end-of-season peaches (which I think are harder than peak juicy peaches) to booze/syrup, which is why I had some leftovers.

Also, I have no idea what kind of peaches I picked up at the orchard, but I can tell you that they are not freestone. (Ask me how I know that.) Also, the skins did not slip off as I expected they would, which made for some serious peach wrangling…good thing the bourbon makes it worth it. Another lesson from this project? Simmer peaches with the lid (mostly) on. There may have been a slightly sticky residue coating much of the kitchen floor this morning…

See? I also did some spinning. I am mostly through the second bobbin of my reflection SCF bfl, and am looking forward to plying this soon. Happy weekend!

green and partly dilly.

First up: dilly beans. Now I’ve got at least 10 pints on the shelf, which should be enough to both enjoy at home and share. (I actually ran out of pint jars yesterday, and had to pick up another tray on my way home from the farm!) Dilly beans are always more time intensive than I think — mostly because I never trim my beans to exactly the right length, and I always have to re-trim as I’m packing the jars. These are totally worth the hassle, though, and I’m psyched to taste these after they spend a few weeks mellowing and pickling.

I also made Kaela’s Chile Verde Base — this stuff is delicious, and so simple: tomatillos, garlic, hot peppers, and cilantro. Basically, you partially roast the first two, and throw all the ingredients in a food processor. I’m going to make another batch of this later. Storing this in the freezer to use as a base for soups and sauces prompted me to clean out the freezer. (Stock from 2008? Green chiles from the Southwest that I did too good of a job hoarding? I’m looking at you.) Now there’s room for lots more chile verde base! Oh, and berries. I might have frozen what we picked on Saturday as incentive to do a good job picking yesterday…

I had plenty of dill remaining from the beans, so I tied the longer stems into a bunch and hung them near the window to dry. I absolutely love the idea of home-dried herbs, and I am excited to use these in my cooking this fall and winter.

Just when I finally had the week’s produce under control, farm day came around again. The boy and I spent the afternoon picking blackberries, raspberries, more cherry tomatoes, more paste tomatoes, flowers, hot peppers, tomatillos, and a whole tote bag full of chard. I’m planning to blanch and freeze this later today. And make more salsa or chile verde base with all the tomatillos.

Also, I might have accidentally visited the orchard yesterday. (Hey, it was on the way home from taking friend K. to have her stitches out!) We might both have accidentally walked away with 8 quarts of peaches. (For 8 bucks.) Oh, and a few apples. Despite being the last peaches of the season (and labeled as “culls”), these are gorgeous. I’m going to cut one up and tuck it into my bowl of granola in a moment…and then I’m going to dedicate another fifteen minutes or so to daydreaming about what these should become. Jam? Butter? Peaches in some kind of (boozey) syrup? More on that soon.

For those of you who come hear for the fiber (and not the food), never fear. I’ll have knitterly things back in the rotation soon. I’ve got another week (or so?) of farmy abundance to process, but once the first frost arrives, I’ll be able to happily gaze at my shelves of winter preparation and get back to my knitting and spinning!

rooster can can.

(A tired joke in canning circles, to be sure. But it is early, and I need a title for my blog post…)

On Sunday morning, I woke up early and set to making a full batch of tomato puree (a la Local Kitchen again). I paused mid-puree to take a picture. (That food mill was actually tucked way in the back of one of my kitchen cabinets when I moved in, despite the fact that my apartment was previously occupied by a solitary male undergrad who made a big mess of the stove and otherwise, to my eye, anyway, did not use the kitchen so much. Whenever I move out of this apartment, I’m taking it with me.) I simmered and simmered the juices from several quarts of paste tomatoes, and ended up with 7 pints of tomato puree.

I am in love with the super bright red of this puree — and am excited to be able to make homemade sauce from on-hand ingredients later this winter! (I also see adding this to hearty soups and stews.)

It is Tuesday again, which means farm day, and I am still struggling to put up all of the additional produce we picked in the fields last week! These peppers need to be frozen or pickled, and I’ve got a full canvas bag full of green beans that need attention.

The canning pot is on the stove, and the jars are on their way to being sterilized for a batch of dilly beans. I’m intending to pick as much as I can this afternoon and then try to freeze or can in all of my spare time this week. Temps have been in the high 40s at night here in town, and up at the farm, the first frost is imminent (after which, much of the field produce that is available for preserving/freezing will be done for the season). I’m just going to keep doing that can can until then — it is (and will be) super rewarding, but man, preserving is exhausting! I may have gotten into bed at 9:30 last night.

I did grant myself a small break from canning on Sunday night, and instead, sat down at my wheel to listen to a podcast or two and finish up the first bobbin of this bfl from SCF in the Reflection colorway. I love these colors, and am really excited to spin up bobbin #2, get this plied together and washed, and then in the mail to a dear friend who knits. (It would be nice to get this to her before the cold comes, so that she has time to knit herself something warm with it!)

Okay, time to pour another cup of coffee and get back to those beans!

tomatillo, -illo, illo.

Pronounced incorrectly, the word “tomatillo” calls to mind a certain pop song (circa 2007). Not exactly my preferred genre, but the suggestion of said song does make me smile, if only because the memory a particularly enthusiastic ’round the campfire acoustic version takes over in my brain and makes me think of my time in the Southwest. What else makes me think of the Southwest? Tomatillos. (-illos, -illos…)

And now I have to tell you about a new blog that I’ve read cover to cover since I came across it on Friday morning: local kitchen. Kaela makes everything from salsa and mustard to jams and booze-y preserves, and it is all beautifully photographed and thoughtfully described. Swoon. My adventures in blog-reading on Friday evening may have prompted me to print out a slew of ideas for my kitchen binder. And then I had to retire my kitchen binder and transfer everything to a bigger 3-ring set up. That’s how great Kaela’s blog is. Local Kitchen was a timely find — here I was, with a kitchen counter COVERED in farm produce, and without a good idea for what all of that deliciousness was going to become.

First up, Kaela’s Salsa Verde. Tomatillos, green peppers, hot peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro…yum. I might make another batch this week.

Next? Cherry Tomato Confit, also from Local Kitchen. The boy and I went to the farm on Saturday to pick more produce before the season’s first frost, and several of the cherry tomatoes were literally splitting as we picked them — bursting with juice and flavor. I took a pint of these and slow-roasted them in the oven, turning them into Cherry Tomato Confit, and now there is a tiny 4 oz. jar in the fridge filled with the powerful flavors of sweet tomatoes, basil, parsley, thyme, garlic, and olive oil. On pasta? On pizza? Straight out of the jar?

I also harvested several big handfuls of mint to hang to dry in the kitchen (also something I learned from Local Kitchen). I love these pictures so much. Something about the vibrant greens.

And that isn’t even the whole of my Local Kitchen-inspired weekend adventures. Yesterday I may have been saying aloud (to anyone who would listen), “I don’t want to be a grad student right now. I just want to play in the kitchen.” Sigh.

And I do actually very much want to be a grad student. I’d just really like to press pause on life for a week in order to focus on preparing my kitchen for winter.

More produce, and even some spinning next time!

tomato jam.

Last night I made tomato jam. And even though incredible aromas filled my entire apartment, I think I need to take my own advice next time and avoid evening canning. See, the recipe calls for allowing the tomato mixture to simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours, in order for it to get all sticky and jammy. And after 1.5 hours, I stirred my mixture and thought to myself, “Well…it isn’t quite thick enough, but it has been an hour and a half, and I am tired, so I’ll go for it.” Then, I packed the jars (mostly tiny jars and a few half pints) with a ladle. I think a slotted spoon might have been a better idea, in order to create a stickier jam. (The strawberry-balsamic jam recipe that I love uses a slotted spoon, and separates the gooey bits from the thinner syrup.)

All that said, I am excited to try this, and am hoping that the water bath/cooling time has helped a bit with the congealing. And in the future? I’ll start this in the morning, so that my tiredness is not a factor in deciding when my jam is jammy.

I haven’t tasted this stuff yet, but I’m guessing it is amazing. I had a pint or two leftover, due to the small size of the jars I had handy, so I tucked that into the fridge. Planning to spread it on toast with some goat cheese for breakfast…I’ll report back.