Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Public Service Announcement:

Refrain from taking your youngster to a wet beach unless you have all of the following:

A) A high tolerance for mess

B) The willingness to get wet and messy yourself while trying to hose him off afterward

C) A dry towel and a change of clothes for both of you

D) The desire to watch your little goober have the time of his life

Thursday, August 22, 2013


So before August turned crazy and then completely got away from me, I spent a lovely and fragrant morning in the kitchen making peach butter.

My recipe for peach butter is pretty much the same recipe I use for my applesauce.  (Side note: IT'S ALMOST APPLE-PICKING TIME!!!)  I highly recommend getting peaches from the farmers' market or from a local orchard for this.  There's really no comparison between the real thing and the poor things that get imported to the grocery store from California.  (... of course, if you're *in* California, by all means, buy the Cali peaches.  But if you're in the Midwest... not so much.)

Wash and cut up your fruit, leaving the skins on but removing pits and stems.  The skins will give your finished product a pretty color.  Put all of the fruit in a stockpot with about an inch of water at the bottom to keep them from burning before the fruit releases its juices.

Start to cook the fruit down over medium heat.  This will take a lot less time for peaches than for apples since peaches are pretty soft to begin with.  Seconds are great for this; you pay about half the price as for premium fruit and you don't need them to be pretty anyway.  Just check the box before you buy - seconds have a relatively short shelf life since they're already bruised to begin with.  I cut away the worst parts, but if you aren't careful when you buy them you'll end up cutting away most of what you bought.  If you're using seconds, you'll definitely want to plan on making your preserves within a day or two: see previous comment about the short shelf life.  Not to mention the fruit flies that are on day old peaches like white on rich.

If your household is like mine, you might have a rugrat plotting his escape while you're working on this.  That's ok - just try to keep him away from the stove so that the boiling syrup doesn't splash on him.  You might notice that he has the dog's water dish in his hands.  While you're waiting for the peaches to cook down, take the opportunity to mop the kitchen floor, since he's already started that process for you.

After about 10 minutes on medium-high head, your peaches should look something like this.  The fruit on the bottom is breaking down and the only whole pieces that are left are the ones that were on top to begin with.  At this point, you'll want to start stirring pretty regularly because the mix will get progressively thicker and you don't want the bottom to burn.

Just keep stirring, just keep stirring, just keep stirring, stirring, stirring...

42 Wallaby Way, Sydney; 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

(Digression: When Jack was born, I spent basically his first two months sitting on the daybed watching movies and nursing him during every waking hour.  I had seen Finding Nemo before, but it was in the stack of movies my sister lent me, so I watched it again.  This time, though, I cried.  More than once.  Marlin realizing he's lost Nemo?  Cried.  Crush the sea turtle saying that the "little dudes" have to learn to fly on their own?  Cried.  Marlin, Nemo and Dory together as a family at the end?  Cried.  I blame the postpartum hormones.)

Ok, back to the peach butter before I get all weepy.  This is the part when some kind of food processor comes in handy.  I like my grandma's old school one that looks like the aliens from "War of the Worlds", but an electric one would be fine, too.  Once your peaches are cooked down so that even the ones that are still relatively whole are soft, it's time to make some buttah.  


First, I strain off whatever liquid hasn't boiled off in the stockpot.  If you're going to be a purist about this, you should really keep it boiling on the stove until almost all of the liquid is gone, but to do that requires constant stirring, which wasn't happening for me that day.  (See small boy trying to escape.)  If you aren't super impatient to eat your peach butter RIGHT NOW, you could also put it in a crock pot instead of on the stove top and let it slow cook all day with a splatter screen on top instead of the lid, but I was leaving to go camping an hour after these pictures were taken, so that wasn't happening either.

After you've strained off whatever liquid is left, run the remains through your food processor.  Mine has small holes that keep the skins from going into the final product, but if you don't want the skins in your final product you could either peel them from the beginning (that would've been useful information at the top of this post, I know) or run the whole mess through a strainer.  Actually, if you wanted to use a strainer, you could probably just mash everything through it with the back of a wooden spoon and forego the electric food processor entirely.  

There, I just gave you a way to save the planet.  You're welcome.

If the process has been exhausting up to this point and you need a hit of pure sugar, by all means, drink the liquid you strained off the peaches before you processed them.  I put mine in the fridge and sipped on it after it was chilled; it's delicious, but way more intense than hummingbird food.  (Yes, I've accidentally drank hummingbird food, so I can say this with some authority.)  It would be totally awesome as a mixer, though.  I'll leave that up to your imaginations. 

Ok, now that you're wired, we're in the home stretch.  Put the processed peaches back in your stockpot for a final boil.  You'll want to stir constantly at this point because it would be a bummer for them to burn after all this work.  You want the peach butter to get thick enough that you can dip a spoon in and have it come out coated.  This is also the point at which you'll want to taste your peach butter.  My peaches were sweet enough that I decided not to add any sugar, but you could add white or brown sugar or honey to taste at this point.  My original recipe called for about 1/2 a cup of white sugar.

Peach butter will keep in a closed container in the fridge for a good month or more because of all the antioxidants found in the skins and it also freezes well, but if you want to can it, you can process it in a boiling water bath with 1/2" of headspace for 12 minutes.  I have done that in the past, but I was running out of room, so I just threw it in jars in the fridge.  

Finally, toast some delicious bread (this calls for something more special than Wonderbread... not that you could get that anymore anyway) smear on some of the fruits of your labors and ENJOY!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Behind the scenes

Hi, friends!

Sorry about the radio silence.  I'm sans good internet connection at the moment, so posting will be light until early next week.

Back soon with pictures and updates on all the fun projects I've been into.  I know you'll be quivering with antici.......................................................pation until then.  :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

What my kitchen looks like

One of my sidelines is selling bread for a friend at a farmers' market one night a week.  This is my third summer doing it for him, and it's become one of the things I look forward to most about summer.  He pays us a little for selling, but we always end up spending almost all of that and more buying delicious goodies at the market.  Whatever bread is left over at the end we're able to trade with other vendors, so we come home with quite the bounty.

(Don't mind the taped off outlets - we just tiled our backsplash earlier this week and we need to seal the grout lines before we put the covers back on.  The exciting thing about this development, though, is that it means the kitchen is DONE!  More on that later.)

Last night's haul: watermelon, half a cantaloupe, peaches plus a basket of seconds that will become peach butter later this morning, blueberries (can you tell that I go a little nuts over fresh fruit in the summer?), a dozen and a half ears of corn, two cucumbers, a head of bibb lettuce, a couple eggplant, four heads of garlic, a package of bacon and another of pork sausage links, a couple of cookies and a slice of raspberry olive oil pound cake.  Not to mention the bread I didn't trade, which gets distributed to friends and family or ends up in our freezer. 

A bunch of the corn, a loaf of white bread for French toast and a couple jars of peach butter are going with me up north where the boy and I are camping with some of my college girlfriends this weekend.  This will be the first time we've all been together since a wedding last summer, and I can't wait to introduce the little man to those who haven't met him yet and to spend a couple days basking with my ladies.

It feels like this summer has been flying by, so I suppose in a way this post is an attempt to hold on to that summer-y feeling when you're eating fruit hand over fist so that the fruit flies don't get it first and you eat so much corn that you might turn yellow.  

(Paul is from colder climes than I, and he's used to corn season being a month at most.  The first time I came home with a 50 lbs. bag of corn to put up and freeze it was a novelty.  The second time (two weeks later), it was cause for slight concern.  The third time I think he may have contemplated divorce.  I heard a lot of "creamed corn... fried corn... corn pone... corn bread... corn on the cob..." in the style of Bubba from Forest Gump, and "Corn!  The other white meat!"  To his credit, though, *he* was the one who first suggested buying corn at the market this year.  I was going to give him a break for a while.  And yes, we did eat all that corn I froze last year, and we ran out of it before the markets started back up.)

I was noticing the other day that I need to update my "printed word" reading list sidebar.  I've been making a point to read more fun books (i.e. not-for-my-dissertation books) this summer, and I've got some great ones to recommend.  I just finished Farmacology by Daphne Miller, M.D., which is about a medical doctor's investigations into the way sustainable farming can teach lessons about our health.  It was a great read, and, although most of her recommendations are already in keeping with the way we live, it's always nice to be vindicated.  I highly recommend it.

After Farmacology I read The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.  It had been on my list for quite a while because I love books about the sea, and this one didn't disappoint.  Just a warning: it's incredibly depressing (hint: it's a bad storm.  A lot of people die), but Junger's research and the way he weaves the peoples' stories together was pretty gripping.  I stayed up half the night to finish it.

Now I'm on Michael Crichton's Next.  Crichton has been a favorite of mine since high school.  I wrote him a fan letter when I was in 10th grade and he wrote me back and sent an autographed headshot.  Call me a dork, but I still think that's pretty awesome.  

Ok, time to wrap this up for today.  That was the third time I've had to get up to chase after the recently-mobile kiddo, who is intent on playing in the dog's water dish.  It takes him about 20 seconds to get from the kitchen table (which is in the front room, not the kitchen, confusingly enough) out to the kitchen where the dog's dish is.  He's not crawling so much as scooting, but man is he getting quick.  

Happy weekending!