Sunday, September 30, 2007

Buttered Rum Pound Cake

This recipe was originally from Southern Living, but I've made several alterations.

Buttered Rum Pound Cake
1 c butter, softened
2 ½ c brown sugar
6 eggs, separated
3 c flour
¼ t baking soda
1 c sour cream
1 t vanilla
½ c sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in yolks, 1 at a time, beating until just mixed. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour with baking soda and add alternately with the sour cream.

In a clean bowl beat egg whites until foamy, then gradually add ½ c sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Stir half the whites into batter to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whites.

Pour into greased and floured 10” tube pan.
Bake at 325 F for 1 ½ hours. Cool on rack for 10 minutes, and while the cake is cooling make the glaze. After 10 minutes turn cake over onto plate and remove pan. Prick with toothpick or wooden skewer and pour glaze over cake.

Buttered Rum Glaze

6 T butter
3 T rum*
¾ c sugar
3 T water
½ c chopped toasted pecans

Combine butter, rum, sugar and water in a pan. Bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pecans.

* Light is best although dark works, too.

Bananas Foster Sauce
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 T water
1/3 c rum
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 bananas, peeled and sliced

In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in sugar, water, and cinnamon. When mixture begins to bubble, add bananas. Cook until bananas are hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rum, heat for 1 minute, then ignite rum with a long match. When flames go out, serve immediately.

Heating Season begins

I usually try and hold out until October 1, but last night we left a couple of windows open, and this morning the temperature in the kitchen was a balmy 54°F.

Being busy with canning tomato sauce in the morning, I didn't really feel the cold, so held off on turning on the furnace.
The house did warm up a bit during the day, but at 4 pm is was only 64F so I asked Dan to crank up the woodstove.

I hate to start the heating season, but that good wood heat sure feels good after a busy day.

Another reminder of fall: our friend Karen's birthday was Friday. We celebrated a day late with buttered rum pound cake with bananas foster
sauce and a new (old) book: My Life in the Maine Woods by Annette Jackson.

The book has been re-printed with some new material by Islandport Press, and I was sure Karen, our woodswoman friend who grew up camping for weeks at a time in the Allagash, would enjoy it. Apparently I was right since she could barely peel her eyes away from the book to eat her cake. Happy Birthday Karen!

Slinky squirrel trick

This afternoon, we finally got around to trying a tip I read about in a Fine Gardening magazine. We used a Slinky as a squirrel deterrent, fastening the Slinky over the posts of our bird feeders. I can hardly wait to see the squirrels enjoying their new toy.

Clever Dan fastened the Slinky to the pole using a small hose clamp. Once the Slinky was installed, we filled all the feeders. We have an assortment of feeders for all the preferred feeding styles of our backyard birds, but the favorite among the chickadees and finches are the inexpensive tube feeders seen here on the right.

I think it is the t-shaped perch, which allows the birds to directly face the feeder ports. We have similar but higher-end feeders, but without the t-shaped perches, and invariably, these feeders are used only when all the other perches are full or the t-perched feeders are empty.

I'm not a big fan of winter but at least I can enjoy the birds at the feeders all winter.

Roasted tomato sauce

This weekend, from the tomato deluge, we pressure canned 5 and 1/2 quarts of roasted tomato sauce to be stored away until we need a taste of sunshine in the depths of dreary winter. Not as much as I had dreamed of, but such is the life of a gardener.

I cut the tomatoes in half and drizzled them with a bit of olive oil. I added a couple of peppers, some onion, and 6 cloves of garlic, and roasted the pans in a 400 degree oven until they were soft. Since most of my tomatoes were not paste tomatoes, they were pretty juicy, so I then transferred to a stockpot to thicken a bit, then we put the whole kit n' caboodle through my tomato press.

The resulting sauce was still pretty thin, so I cooked it down a bit more overnight in my crock pot. This morning I canned the results in my pressure canner. We had a smidgen of leftover which we sampled today at lunch. In a word, yum.

We still have lots of green tomatoes on the vine, and with the balmy fall we've been having, we might get enough tomatoes for another batch of sauce. I wish I'd weighed the tomatoes before I started so I knew how many pounds I used for this one batch.

The plan for next year? A tomato-growing contest between Dan and I --maybe that will inspire us to try harder, thus leading to increased yields.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

And finally, the deluge of tomatoes

We had freakishly hot weather here today, setting record high temps for the state. That has to be good for my tomatoes, which are finally pumping out fruit.

A mixed bowl of Black Krim, Amish Paste, unknown red from Kyle, and Orange Banana.

Lillian's Yellow, a Brandywine-sized potato-leaf heirloom. Kyle grew this seedling.

Orange Banana and an Amish Paste

Sungold and Gardener's Delight cherry tomatoes.

We're still getting a few cukes from the Marketmore 78 plant. The Diva cukes gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, but they are so good we'll try them again next year.

Sweet Banana and Johnny's Carmen Peppers. There are more of these to harvest, and loads of lemon peppers, too. Pepper jelly this weekend, I think.

And despite the powdery mildew, we're still getting delicious squash from the Costata Romanesca zucchini, and the Early Yellow Crookneck are prolific and delicious (as always), too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Backyard hens are hip

According to the NY Times, backyard chickens are now all the rage.

I'm not surprised, I can't imagine life without the girls, even though it can lead to hawk-related heartbreak.

But I'm not ready to let them in the house, no matter how much they want to be invited in!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Even graper

The final tally is 28 quarts of juice and 14 half pints of jelly from 30 +/- pounds of grapes. I've read you can make fruit leather from the leftover grape pulp after straining the juice for jelly, but frankly I'm just too pooped to experiment with that idea this year.

Today we used the turkey fryer to process the jelly, and man, that thing heats up! It sounds like the space shuttle booster rockets, and cuts the time needed to heat up the boiling water bath to b
oiling by 2/3. I was a bit worried we were going to burn through the bottom of my aging canner but it survived.

We made one batch of low sugar jam using Ball No Sugar Needed pectin. I'd never tried it and was quite curious about what the final product would be like. It called for 4 cups of juice and I chose to use 3 cups of sugar, with a yield of 4 half pints. It set very firmly, and judging from licking up a few dribbles, tasted very flavorful and grape-y. I usually prefer a softer set so I'll be curious to try this batch later this fall. I wonder if more juice would result in a softer set and higher yield?

Our second batch made with Sure Jell pectin called for 5 cups of juice and 7 cups of sugar, and yielded 10 half pints. I did have a skibble over 5 cups of juice but decided to risk a softer set and use it all, since as I mentioned, I prefer a softer set jelly. I scraped out the pot thoroughly and Dan had it loaded in the dishwasher before I could sample a bit, I hope it's good!

I was a bit disappointed with our overall jelly yield. According to my Ball Blue Book, we should have had 12 cups of juice from 14 pounds of grapes, but we got only 9 cups of juice. I'm wondering if we used a food mill to process the juice if that would increase the yield. I'll have to try a different method next year and see what we get. I'm not sure I'd opt for jelly again, anyway, as the grape juice was divine.

One jar of grape juice failed to seal, so Dan and I sampled the juice for breakfast, and as far as I'm concerned, it tasted like nectar of the gods. That will be a special treat all winter, and you can bet that we'll be looking into pruning that grapevine to increase production next year.

Just grape

We finished canning 28 quarts of grape juice last night at about 11:30. This morning, I slept in until nearly 8 o'clock --unheard of in my life.

The task for today: make 4 batches of grape jelly. The grape juice is in the fridge, it needs to set overnight before straining. Just as well since I was busy making juice!

We crushed the grapes with my potato masher, then briefly simmered them with a small amount of water.
Dan then fed the crushed grapes through our Italian tomato press, and we collected the resulting juice in large jars to store in the fridge.

Today is gorgeous, clear as a bell and sunny with a slight breeze. We gathered as many half-pint jars as I could find last night and washed them. We'll be able to process the jam outside on the deck using the turkey fryer propane burner, which heats a huge amount of water a LOT faster than even the high output burner on my gas range. So at least I'll get to spend a few hours outside today before I head in to work for the afternoon, for a special program. Sob.

really need to do some gardening! I have three new perennials, and a lot of allium bulbs to plant. With a gift certificate, I purchased the Music of the Spheres (photo on the left from WWF) plant collection from White Flower Farm. I also purchased some drumstick allium bulbs to create this collection (photo below from WWF) with some achillea I already have in my new flower bed. When I'm actually going to plant these, I'm just not sure..... Time is flying, and today is the first day of autumn. I miss summer already!

Blogger is having a little trouble with photos just now, so pictures will follow soon. Time to get to work!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Harvest day

Although I wanted to be at quite possibly one of the best agricultural fairs in the country, the Common Ground Fair, I decided I'd better take it easy and stay home today.

Finally, after many weeks of limping and 2 painful cortisone injections, my
plantar fasciitis (sore foot or tendonitis) is finally beginning to feel better. Or maybe I should phrase that less terrible. The fair is wonderful, but would mean miles and miles of walking and when not walking, standing, so I opted out.

Instead, we did some yard sale-ing and then work in the garden. Our pumpkin vines were pretty
much dead from powdery mildew, brought on by the stress of drought, so we harvested them, a mix of New England Pie and Winter Luxury. The Winter Luxury pumpkins have a russetting on the skin, and the NE Pie tend to be smaller and bright orange. We picked a few more tomatoes, including this beautiful Amish Paste, next to my Felco pruners for comparison. They are very large for a paste tomato. We also picked a few ears of multicolored corn, which we grew for fun and fall decor. We hang the prettily-colored ears with the dried husks, and use the stalks by the front door.

And then we looked at the grapes.

There seemed to be a lot. We thought, well, why not. We've been here six years and hadn't harvested any grapes. This year, what with the new grape arbor and what seems to have been a good grape year weatherwise, we should at least
do something with them.

I helped, but Dan being taller did more picking, with me emptying the pail. We picked a lot of grapes. They were for the most part, gorgeous. When picked over and washed, we must have had 30 lbs. of grapes --they nearly filled my laundry basket/party tub.

We made juice for grape jelly, 4 batches, using 14 lbs. of grapes, and are in the process now of making quarts of grape juice. At this moment, we have 7 quarts in the canner and are heating the water for the syrup of a second batch of juice. Jelly will be processed tomorrow morning.

I'm not sure I wouldn't have been better off at the Fair.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Great sadness, another chick lost to a hawk

Friday we lost another chick, Hermoine, to a red tail hawk. We got home just after it happened, and our poor chicks were totally freaked out. They had managed to knock open the gate into the adult chicken's pen, and as if the hawk weren't bad enough, poor Ayla lost a lot of tail feather to one of the chickens (probably Iris).

We eventually managed to catch them and put them back in their pen (after removing what was left of Hermoine),

but they were scared little chickens. They went right into their coop and roosted, all huddled

Dan and I felt terrible. Last year, before we had an expanded fenced in area,

we strung twine over the fenced in area to deter birds, as seen in the photo on the left. It appeared to work, but didn't allow us to get in the run, and with our current configuration, we could not string the twine, but had thought the brush along one side of the pen
was enough. Had thought.

This morning, I awoke with the solution -- run the twine above our heads. This afternoon, we completed the job. I hope it keeps the hawks away from our poor girls!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

And finally, a ripe tomato (I think)

Wednesday was a red letter day, as I picked my first full-sized ripe tomato from the garden, a Black Krim, seeds purchased on impulse when recommended by another gardener.

According to the
Fedco catalog, "Krims are strikingly iridescent purple on the outside, usually with dark green-black shoulders and noticeable catfacing. Interiors are part black, too, with an unusual juicy yet meaty taste and texture, described as having “…a smoky flavor like a good single malt scotch.”"

Also according to the catalog, Krims should be picked when they are
"half green and still firm. They are dead ripe and perfectly delicious at that stage." Looking through the tangle of overgrown tomato plants, I wasn't sure if they were ready, but gave it a go, and they were indeed delicious, tangy and complex, but very tomato-ey, and meaty like a good beefsteak ought to be. I ate much of it plain, then chopped the remaining tomato into a Nikki's Salad (named after the originator, a very dear friend), chopped fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. YUM!

There will be plenty for me as Dan announced he didn't like them. Because they aren't red, like tomatoes should be.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Much needed rain at last

Yesterday we finally got a bit of rain. Just 1/2 an inch but better than none! The lawn feels like concrete. More showers are predicted today.

Monday, September 03, 2007

An abundance of squash and carrots and....

I really only intended to take the compost out, but then I thought I'd check for more ripe cherry tomatoes, and the next thing I new, I was loaded down with an abundance of produce. This photo doesn't even include the enormous zucchini I gave the chickens.

I pulled the Mokum carrots and a few of the Rainbow Mix. The Mokums are delicious, and the red carrots in the mix are good too, but the white carrots were a huge pain. The roots were not carrot-like at all, but a wild mass of fingers and the tops frequently broke off. Cross this mix off the list for next year!

I'm going to try a new squash soup recipe later:

Yellow Squash Soup
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 T olive oil
2 large yellow bell pepper
1 1/2 lbs yellow summer squash
3 cloves garlic
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 c half and half or light cream

Sautee the peppers in oil until soft, add squash and garlic, cook covered until squash is softened. Add stock and simmer 5-10 minutes. Purée until smooth, return to pan and reheat until just heated through, adding cream to thin to desired consistency, and season with salt and pepper.

Makes about 5+ cups.

It sounds very mild, but will lend itself to my usual tinkering.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bush cherries

I picked the bush cherries from this bush today. This one little bush yielded 1 1/4 lbs of tart cherries.

The other bush also has many berries, but is deep within the garden and the cherries are not as plentiful or ripe -- too much shade, perhaps.

Time to try sour cherry jam, I think.

Ripe tomatoes at last!!

Finally, ripe, my Sungolds are making me a happy woman. They taste even better than they look.

Corn and Tomato Pie

This is one of my favorite late summer treats. I adapted it from a recipe by Laurie Colwin, I think it was in Home Cooking. I adapt it just about every time I make it depending on what is ready in the garden. This year, I was dying for it, so I bought tomatoes and corn, as my tomatoes are still not ripe. Sigh.

The pie has a biscuit crust and calls for rolling out the dough into 2 discs for the top and bottom crust. I use James Beard's cream biscuits from my Fannie Farmer cookbook, and when I'm lazy, just drop them on top of the filling like a cobbler. This particular iteration included dill in the biscuits. The filling consists of sliced tomatoes, lightly salted and drained briefly on paper towels, fresh corn cooked and cut off the cob, and basil or some other flavorful herb (like dill). I added zucchini 'cause I had some.

I usually make it the day after we have corn on the cob. In this instance, I layered the ingredients and added a sprinkling of cheddar cheese between the layers. Oh, and I also lightly sprinkle each layer with flour. I think it would be excellent with ricotta cheese and lots of black pepper. The original recipe called for mayo thinned with lemon juice but I don't like mayo so I skip that option. I find the juice from the tomatoes is enough. If your tomatoes are really sweet you could add a squirt of lemon to brighten the flavor. Bake in a 400 F oven until hot and bubbly with browned biscuits. It makes a great leftover lunch, too.