Even though the garden is nowhere near what it should be right now I have spent the majority of the day putting up what has been taken out of it.  I had a large basket of tomatoes ripen on the counter that I wanted taken care of before the fruit flies were out of control.  I picked more to ripen this morning but have a feeling piccalilli is in my future (not that I mind, I haven’t made it in a few years).

I canned what few green beans I have harvested this year.  The yellows should be coming in mid-week.  They’re a month behind – mind you I had to plant them 3 times this year due to cold weather.  You can’t always go by the calendar when it comes to gardening.

I also dug some potatoes and it would appear that this will be one of my best years ever for those.

With the spoils of the garden waiting on the counter I decided to make a five mile meal.  Shepherd’s Pie made with fresh dug potatoes, newly pulled onions, fresh corn, newly cured garlic and beef grown in Heath by our good friend Russell. Now I know Shepherd’s Pie is sometimes considered a lowly meal but is a favorite of some of my family members and making it with ingredients this fresh takes it to heights never achieved with corn coming out of a can.  It’s five miles to the corn stand, hence the name.

I also made backyard sauce and canned that as well.  Everything grown here – even the herbs.  Heaven.

There’s something about the feeling you get knowing you have grown everything you are eating.  There’s a sense of pride and a feeling of security that grows a little each year.  I can also send food home with family and friends and know they’ll eat and enjoy not only something good, healthy and local but also made with love.





Fig Bars

140727 Fig Bars

After baking these and posting this photo yesterday I had a number of requests for the recipe so here goes.  This comes from the King Arthur Flour Baking Companion – a book that I’m slowly baking my way through.

I started with the filling because it needs to cool before making the cookies.

1 pound dried figs

1/4 c granulated sugar

1 c water

1 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp lemon juice

Grind the figs in a food processor or blender until a sticky, cohesive mass form.  (They say you can snip them with scissors but I have to tell you, without the food processors these cookies wouldn’t happen.) Combine the figs with the other ingredients in a saucepan, stir well, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, 3 to 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

The cookie dough.

1/2 c shortening

1 c packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 c all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

In a large mixing bowl beat together shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla until creamy.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt and baking powder.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients gradually, beating until blended thoroughly.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Heat oven to 375.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll it on a lightly floured surface to 14″x 16″.  Cut the dough into 4 strips 4″x 14″.  Spoon filling evenly down the center of each strip.  Lift the sides of each strip over the filling pressing the edges together to seal.  Cut the strip in half crosswise, making a total of eight 7″ strips. Place the strips seam side down, leaving 3 inches between them, on  lightly greased or parchment covered baking sheets.  Cut each strip into seven 1″ pieces but don’t separate them yet.

Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes, until they’re puffed and firm to the touch.  Cool for several minutes on the baking sheet before separating them and cooling completely on racks.

This makes 56 cookies.

They are delicious.  Reminiscent of fig newtons but fresher tasting.  The fig really shines.

When reading through the recipe I thought these might be more trouble than they are worth.  There’s a lot of dough manipulation that goes on.  The only thing about this is that you have to work fairly quickly once the dough is rolled out.  As it warms it’s more difficult to work with.  All in all it’s worth the effort, I probably will never buy a fig newton again.


140118 Snickerdoodles (9)This is what I do on a snowy, winter day – bake cookies.

I put out a call for requests and this was one.  Not having made these for many years I reached for my King Arthur Flour cookbook but knew instantly it wasn’t the right recipe.  The one in my memory called for cream of tartar so I dug out the 1950’s version of the Betty Crocker and there it was.

The ingredients –

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose or unbleached flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
140118 Snickerdoodles (2)The shortening, butter, eggs and sugar are creamed together, then add the dry ingredients until incorporated (except the additional sugar and cinnamon).  Couldn’t be simpler.
140118 Snickerdoodles (1)I use a tablespoon cookie scoop and place the dough ready for rolling on parchment paper.  It looks like scoops of vanilla ice cream doesn’t it?
140118 Snickerdoodles (3)Mix the 1/4 cup of sugar with the cinnamon, roll the dough into balls and then coat with the mixture and set on the pan about 2 inches apart.
140118 Snickerdoodles (5)I line my baking sheets with parchment as well.  Have I told you about my love affair with parchment?  It changed my life a few years ago when I discovered I didn’t have to grease and wash my cookie sheets when I was done baking. (Ever notice how those pans never fit in a dishwasher or the sink?) This is the one time-saving device I would have a hard time giving up – that and the cookie scoop due to my ocds about size and shape but that’s a whole different blog.
140118 Snickerdoodles (6)Put the cookies in a 400 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, they will just barely be getting brown.  This is another cookie that I drop the pan on the floor (see Soft Molasses Cookies).
140118 Snickerdoodles (8)
Let these babies cool for a few minutes and serve warm, preferably with a nice cup of tea or coffee.
By the looks of today’s forecast I will be pulling out the parchment paper in Enfield tonight.

A Hogwarts Inspired Dessert

140104 Potter PastiesAt our little gathering last weekend one of the sweets I made was Pumpkin Pasties.  These were far more delicious than I expected and were incredibly easy to make.

For the filling I made my regular filling for pumpkin pie, baked it until set and then just scooped it out of the baking dish as I filled the pastry.

The dough couldn’t be easier although it requires some work.  It’s 1 1/2 cups of four, a stick of butter and 8 ounces of cream cheese.  The butter is cut into the flour as you do when you make a pie crust.  Once that is done you add the cream cheese and  mix until it sort of holds together.  Dump it out onto a floured surface and knead it until it holds together.  This takes quite a bit of work, I honestly didn’t think it would ever hold together but eventually it did.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it for a minimum of an hour – I left it overnight.

I rolled the dough out (quite a bit of work in itself) until it was about 1/8″ thick.  Using a 4 inch round cutter I cut the dough.  This dough is very pliable, easy to roll out and fill.  Putting each round in my hand I filled them with about a tablespoon of filling.  I had beaten an egg with a little water and used my finger spread a little on the edge then pinched the edges together to seal.  After putting them on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper I brushed them with the egg wash and sprinkled them with sparkling sugar.  Then I cut a couple of vents in the top of each one.

Bake them in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. They will be a nice puffy pastry when they come out of the oven, quite beautiful.

Everyone thought these were delicious.  The pumpkin filling was something unexpected in a tiny turnover.  I think I will make these again deviating from the Hogwarts Express pumpkin thing and make them with an apple or blueberry filling.  Maybe we just like our fruit better than our vegetables.

End of the Season

140104 RaccoonAs quickly as they ramped up the holidays are now over.  This is an occasion for me to breathe a sigh of relief.  The last of the gatherings was this past weekend with all of my family together in one spot.  That’s a rare event but a most welcome one.  The preparations were made in the week before – I researched and made some Harry Potter themed food for my sister’s girls, my sister and my youngest.  Yes, they are all well into adulthood but there is nothing more exciting than experiencing some of the foods that you’ve only read about.  If I could have turned the living room into the great hall at Hogwarts I would have but alas my wand was nowhere to be found.

The traditions around the holidays for us center around food.  This being the first time in 15+ years my brother and sister have been together for a holiday celebration lead me to bring out the suet pudding recipe with the two sauces.  This is a dessert my kids have heard about their entire lives yet had no recollection of having tasted it.  The recipes and mold came to me from my aunt when she passed the responsibility of making the dessert on to me.  I diligently made it year after year until the girls were little and we began spending a good part of the holidays with Bill’s family.  The Alixes were scattered and no one else even considered eating something with the word suet in it.

My sister and brother were ecstatic to see it as dessert and my brother ate three helpings.  It greased the wheels of reminiscing about food and we talked about our comfort foods in exquisite detail. It amazes me the power of taste and smell to bring back memories from so long ago.  It was also wonderful to have my siblings and their families all together to share in the stories even though they find some of the things we eat on the line of disgusting.  You know, it’s never going to stop us from eating it.  I think next time we get together I will make mac and cheese with tomatoes and serve a side of sliced onions and cucumbers in a bowl of cider vinegar and the three of us will sit around the table and talk about childhood.  I’m not sure what the rest of the family will do for food.

Bacon Jam

Bacon JamThis holiday season we will be attending a wine and cheese event given by Bill’s cousin.  He is kind of a foodie so I decided to make a batch of Bacon Jam to bring along with a bottle of wine.  I can’t imagine this not going well with cheese – or a cheeseburger or an english muffin or toast or your morning waffle or pancake.  This stuff is gold.

It all begins with a trip to Pekarski Sausage in South Deerfield.  They don’t have a website so I added a link to the reviews on Yelp.  This is a wonderful family owned business that makes artisan smoked meats and sausages.  We always have a stock in the freezer and somehow something makes it’s way into one of our meals on a weekly basis.

This is what I picked up – bacon, beautiful, lean bacon. One and a half pounds.  I picked up a smoked Cornish Game Hen as well for dinner with sister Sue.

Bacon Jam (1)The bacon was cut into one inch pieces.

Bacon Jam (2)

And cooked in a large skillet until the fat was rendered and it started to brown.

Bacon Jam (3)Meanwhile I diced two medium large yellow onions and smashed and peeled 4 cloves of garlic.  The recipe called for three but they were small and who ever heard anyone say “Wow, too much garlic”. Never happens in this family.

Bacon Jam (5)When the bacon was done I took it out of the pan with a slotted spoon and let it drain on paper towels.  Can you just smell this?  Awesome, as bacon always is.

Bacon Jam (7)The fat was drained (to be used for other cooking) and the onions and garlic cooked in about a tablespoon of fat left in the pan.  This smells pretty heavenly too.

Bacon Jam (8)The rest of the ingredients were assembled as the onions cooked to a translucent golden color.  Maple syrup, brown sugar, cider vinegar and coffee all go into the mix.

Bacon Jam (9)The pan is deglazed with the liquids and once it comes to a boil the bacon is returned to the pan.

And then it simmers slowly.

And simmers.

And simmers, filling the air with the complexity of all these ingredients.

It simmered through dinner and 6 rounds of Yahtzee with my sister.

It cooked for almost two hours until the liquid was reduced to a thick syrup consistency.

Bacon Jam (11)It then cools until lukewarm and is put into a food processor until chopped very fine.  All those ingredients melded together into a spread just waiting for your imagination.

Bacon Jam (12)This made a little less than three cups.  I filled two canning jars and one will be staying in the refrigerator for our holiday enjoyment and the other will travel as a gift to the host.  The recipe can be found at Leite’s Culinaria – my go to for great recipes of all kinds.

Now onto the Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies – don’t turn up your nose, they are spectacular!









Remains of the Day

131201 TurkeyThe Thanksgiving holiday ends when the soup is done.  That’s the way I look at it anyway.  Saturday afternoon, after guests had had their fill of all things turkey I removed the meat from the bones and made stock in a very large pot.  I strained the broth and put the pan in the shed to cool overnight. The temperature hadn’t been above 25 degrees so it’s as good as any refrigerator.

Sunday morning I skimmed the fat and heated the stock.  This is where we come to the rest of the ingredients.  Everything that was leftover from Thanksgiving went into the pot.  Mashed potatoes, squash, rutabaga, gravy, it all went in.  Using this as the base for your turkey soup gives it the most wonderful flavor and thickens it to the perfect consistency.  Last but not least comes the leftover bird – and this was one wonderful bird from Diemand Turkey Farm in Wendell, MA.  I didn’t add any starch because I wanted to keep my options open since it was such a huge amount.

The soup was simmered for about an hour and then the canner came out.  I had to can two rounds because the canner will only do 14 pints at a time.  All in all I canned 24 pints.  I do pints because many times it’s just one person (or two) opening a jar.  If there are more people open more jars.  It’s so satisfying to see the fruits of your labor sitting on the counter cooling.  Then dream about the soup’s possibilities – turkey barley, turkey rice and I’m thinking dumplings would be a great winter meal.

The biggest treat is tasting this when Thanksgiving Day is a distant memory because this is really Thanksgiving Dinner in a jar – yum!


Waste Not, Want Not

131102 StockI’ve been buying or roasting a chicken a week for the past 3 weeks.  What started out as an easy meal actually turned into 3 plus meals, each meal probably costing about $1.00 per person or less.

The first meal is roast chicken with sides, I usually eat squash, carrots or green beans with it.  Maybe a mashed potato as well.  The second meal might be black beans and rice with chicken added.  The third meal this week was a lunch of chicken salad.  The fourth iteration is my favorite- I make and can stock.  All of these meals are for two, not a family of 5 but the reality is if you know how to cook you can stretch your food dollar quite a ways.

At this point in time I throw very little food away and chicken stock has the potential to be any number of wonderful meals.  My Saturday morning routine of late has been to throw the bird carcass in a pot with an onion, a couple of carrots and a few stalks of celery.  I cover it with 3 to 4 quarts of water, add some salt, pepper and thyme (or poultry seasoning) and let is simmer for a few hours.  I strain the broth through a colander and can it in my pressure canner – 35 minutes at 10 lbs.  It amounts to 5 or 6 pint jars when all is said and done.

Have a friend or relative with a cold or flu?  Pull out a jar and make a little soup – a delicious soup.

With the weather getting downright frigid what could be more comforting?

Waste not Want not


I’m So Done with Peaches


It’s been a busy few days.  Lots of canning this past weekend in spite of the hot, humid weather.  I always think if being way too hot when I’m canning, it’s the nature of the beast.

The canning marathon began Sunday morning with a large bowl of tomatoes.   The photo looks like it’s all yellow but it was half plum as well.

130901 Pizza (1)

These little tomatoes are bursting with flavor, one of my favorites and the plants are extraordinarily prolific.  There is always a bowl of these on the counter to munch on as you’re walking by.

I made the sauce highly spiced with homemade pesto and oregano (and lots of garlic of course).  It was cooked down to be rather thick and then I canned it in small jars (2/3 cup).  You never need much sauce when you make pizza and this just made more sense to me – that and the fact that I had two dozen of these cute little jars.

130901 Pizza (2)

Monday I wove and finished my scarf for the Big E.  That took a good part of the day.  It was hot, humid and rainy.  We invited friends over for dinner so the only thing I did outdoors was dig potatoes for dinner.  I also picked peppers and put them in to dehydrate. They were there overnight.  Before going to bed I went online and saw Apex Orchards had put out an APB about an overrun of peaches so I knew what I would be doing in the morning.

130903 Peaches (1)

Yes, peaches.  Lots of peaches.  I picked them up around 9:00 and started in as soon as I returned.  This wasn’t the best peach experience I have ever had.  They didn’t peel as well as I would have liked so it was slow going.  I managed to put up 15 pints and with half a box to go I decided to make a little jam.

130903 Peaches (2)I had picked up this new pectin at the orchard and was hot to try it out.  One of the reasons I don’t make much jam is the amount of sugar that has to go into it, this made more sense to me.  I made a jam with peaches, honey and ginger.  It smelled heavenly while it was cooking and what little was left in the pan tasted great.  The thing with jam is it sometimes takes a while to jell up.  By the time I left the house last night it wasn’t looking too thick. I figured I would give it a couple of days to see if it would be thick enough to spread on my toast.  If not it’ll just go into my oatmeal or yogurt.  Mmmmmm, Honey Ginger Peach yogurt, how good does THAT sound!

By the time the afternoon was over I was sooo over peaches.  Canning fruit also calls for serious cleaning – everything was sticky, including the floor.  This may be why peaches are one of the few fruits I put up.  The next will be pears but not until November.  I need a couple of months to recover.

130903 Peaches (3)I will be leaving for Fiber College in Searsport, ME this afternoon.  I’m not sure how much time will be devoted to blogging but I will make an attempt.  All I really want to do is smell and walk along the ocean and eat lobster but I may be coerced into doing a little crafting while I’m there.

Can All You Can


I posted a photo of my canyon of canned goods the other day and some comments surprised me.  I grew up canning.  My mother canned – a lot.  We had a large garden and what she didn’t can she froze.  Everything was done with a hot water bath so there were hours spent in front of that stove or in a hot kitchen, it takes a long time to process things with a hot water bath.  She used the WWII volume of the Ball Blue Book.  I still have it but these days almost everything I do is with a pressure canner.  It saves me time, water, energy and sweat.  I am also able to can pretty much anything safely.

This time of year the concentration is on fruit with tomatoes included.  Last week I canned tomatoes, peaches and made apricot butter as well as a few jars of dill pickles.  This week will be a repeat.  I really need about 50 pints of tomatoes to last me until next summer, I’d prefer to have more but tomatoes aren’t as easy to come by this summer due to a blight that seems to have effected everyone everywhere.

The peaches are beautiful this year and I had a really great canning experience this past weekend.  I love it when everything goes smoothly.  I don’t want to fight to peel those peaches.  I read somewhere to make sure the water was at a rolling boil and to dunk only a few peaches at a time for 30 seconds then into the ice bath.  Worked like a charm.  I also made sure my fruit was at room temperature before I started.  Canning fruit at home also allows you to control the amount of sugar that is used in processing.  That’s important to me, I don’t like things really sweet, I want to taste the fruit.

Our pear tree is loaded with fruit this year – I fear for its branches.  The apple trees are the same.  I will probably make a few pints of pie filling from the apples just to see if I can make it work to my satisfaction.  The pears won’t even ripen until after Thanksgiving and I will can those in chunks like I did the peaches.

There is nothing like the taste of home canned food, especially in winter.  I know exactly what is in every jar, there are no preservatives, no additives, no GMO’s.  It’s real food.  There is also the feeling of food security which is certainly what food preservation is all about.  Having enough to eat until the next harvest comes in.  Plant enough to eat now and put by enough to get you to next summer.  We live in a world where everything is immediate.  It takes very little time to empty out a grocery store, they are restocked every day.  I don’t ever want to worry about where my next meal is coming from or not having food to feed my family.  I’m sure that comes from growing up when food security may have been a concern.  I just remember this time of year the shelves were stocked and you had choices.

130824 Canning CanyonI know when I look at this my mind is set a little more at ease.  I have good food, I took the time to make it right and now all that is left is the eating.