28 June 2011

Honeoye Jam


Saturday we headed to the North Okanogan in British Columbia for a family get together.  We returned home last night.  Although the 18 hours we spent in the car with our five month old were a tad grueling, we had a great time, and we came home with almost-organic Okanogan Honeoye strawberries that were picked yesterday morning.

We ate as many as we could for breakfast but hardly made a dent in the flat.  The flavor of these berries is decidedly less acidic than what I expected.  They are a bright pink-red through and through.  And they are actually a little less sweet than July berries.  I liked the unique flavor.

Since they were growing riper by the minute, I decided to turn most of them into jam this afternoon.  It turned out to be a beautiful vibrant light red color.  And the flavor was great.  Not overly sweet and it even had, in my opinion, honey-like undertones. Aside from not being able to skim off all the foam, I think the batch of jam turned out perfectly.


Honeoye Strawberry Jam
adapted from the sure-jell box


5 cups crushed fresh strawberries (cleaned and de-stemmed, of course)
1 package sure-jell pectin
7 cups sugar

Before beginning the jam, wash a sufficient number of jam-sized jars in hot soapy water.  Then put them into a preheated 175 degree oven on a large baking sheet.  Let them bake for 30 minutes.  This sterilizes them.  Place the canning lids into a sauce pan and cover with water, bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and keep them in the hot water until you use them.

To make the jam, combine berries and pectin together in a large pot and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Measure out the sugar into a bowl.  Bring the fruit and pectin to a rolling boil over high heat (one that can't be stirred down) while stirring constantly.  Once the fruit reaches this rapid boil, add the sugar all at once, stir to disolve, and keep stirring until you bring the mixture back to a rolling boil.  Once it is back to a rolling boil, boil for exactly one minute.  Skim off the foam. Remove from the heat.  Skim off the foam some more.  Then quickly fill the jars (jam will set up as it cools) up to about 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.  I use a funnel, which helps a lot.

Clean off the rims of the jars with a cloth moistened with boiled water (I dip it in the water that the lids are in).  Place lids and rings on the jars and tighten fingertip tight.  Process  the jam (i.e. simmer the jars of jam covered in water) for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars of jam from the hot water and set on a towel on the counter to cool, leaving space between the jars.  You should hear the lids pop, indicating they are sealed, as they cool.

Makes about 7 or 8 cups of jam.

21 June 2011

Dessert in the garden on the summer solstice

To celebrate the summer solstice each year, the gardeners at my p-patch make an evening of sharing desserts in the garden.  This year we shared a particularly enjoyable evening with plenty of warmth and light.  Our solstice party was well attended.  The desserts were plentiful.  Everyone seemed to make a few new friends.  And the garden, well, it was just lovely.


-2.1 feet

Last Saturday, we ventured into the Puget Sound in our hiking boots.  Don't worry, we didn't have stones in our pockets, and our feet barely got wet.  Turns out that one of the lowest tides of the season occurred mid-day on Saturday, so we spent a couple hours at Golden Gardens Park exploring the rocks and pools left bare by the receding water.

Jenny, a friend and fellow member of our parenting group, is a biologist.  She and her husband, Mike, and their baby girl, Sophia, guided us (and a few others) on a low-tide beach walk.  Jenny, who volunteers as a beach naturalist in her spare time, explained what we were seeing and shared good guidelines for how to teach children (and adults) safe and fun ways to explore the beach while not making a big impact. 

Wyatt spent a large portion of the walk happily practicing his seagull impression, laughing wildly, and sucking on the Baby Bjorn.  Then he fell asleep.  Due to the rain and mist, he also got to sport his yellow rain slicker (compliments of his little friend Aziza), which made him look quite a bit like Paddington Bear.

The rest of us spent two hours exploring the nooks and crannies of dozens of big slimy rocks while being followed by a bald eagle, a flock of seagulls, and the occasional curious great blue heron.  All while trying not to slip on the kelp-covered rocks or get squirted by the hundreds of clam "fountains."

In my opinion, the most exciting observations of the day included finding a live moon snail (a seriously ugly creature) and a fairly large red rock crab (lovely color, crazy strong claws).  We also found lots of sea stars, sea cucumbers, crab molts, sea anemones, and all types of seaweed -- some of it quite beautiful.

My parents, who were visiting for the weekend, came along.  As did several others from our parents' group. We had a great time and were so glad we ventured out despite the rain. 

Thanks, Jenny, for a fun and educational day!


Jenny and her five-month-old daughter, Sophia, guiding the walk.
A sea cucumber
Sea stars, including a blue one, anemones, barnacles, kelp . . .
Molt from a Hairy Crab.

16 June 2011

Yesterday


We were out and about with other moms and babies, and we wore our matching all stars.  His to keep on the socks.  Mine, well, for walking.


It was a sunny Seattle moment and the clouds moved so fast I had to take a picture.  A movie would have been better.

Today is the day

I keep wondering why I haven't gotten my gardens planted yet this year.  Weather, yes.  But a quick look at my supervisor explains a lot too.




The sun is out today, so no excuses.  The veggie starts must get planted -- they aren't going to live much longer if they stay on the kitchen counter.  Full report and photos as soon as everything is in . . . 

Chocolate cherry tomatoes and padron peppers, among others.

14 June 2011

I'm not making this up. There once was a day in Seattle that was warm enough to grill.

We took advantage of the intermittent grilling weather that appeared over the weekend to whip up some grilled pizzas.  By the time we decided to make them, it was already dinner time.  Surprisingly, however, the dough didn't take long.  And grilling took just a few minutes.

They turned out great with a crispy/chewy crust, smokey char marks, and good topping combinations (by accident since we used what we had).  While the dough rose, we grilled up some crimini mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, and red onions, and put Wyatt to bed.  Byron, who is the person in our house who makes all the bread-type products, tells me the key to these pizzas is using bread flour and SAF red instant yeast.  Oh, and grilling one side before adding any toppings.


If I can get his dough recipe I'll post it later this week.  It's a good one.

The first pizza was spread generously with pesto, then piled with chunks of eggplant, mushroom, and goat cheese, and then some Parmigiano Reggiano.  Fresh basil went on top after it came off the grill. We slathered our second pizza with good olive oil, red onion, blue cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, black pepper, and Maldon salt. Add to that a bottle of Spanish red and a sleeping baby and we had a delicious and uninterrupted meal.  




Next warm evening, we're making them again.  And by that I mean sometime in September.

09 June 2011

A smattering of lately


Making breakfast for dinner was the easiest thing, especially since we had meant to get together for brunch.  New waffle iron.  Old friends.  Maple syrup.  A great evening.


At least that day there was enough sun in the late afternoon to create shadows I found fascinating.  My patio cushions also stayed dry that day.  Was that summer, I wonder?


Spring asparagus and good eggs, reunited.  Thank goodness the farmer's market started up again last week.



Housekeeping isn't my strong suit.  When desperate for order, I fluff up the feather pillow and center it on the couch.  Somehow that little act makes everything else seem less undone.



One should always have a lovage plant growing in the kitchen garden.  The moment may come when you require its hollow stem for a straw.  A good thing.



What power lines?



Slow mornings.  Now, if only I could get father time to take his foot off the accelerator . . .

08 June 2011

I don't quite know how I feel about this.

Wy at 5 months.
Wyatt has his first tooth.

It's reassuring to know he's growing. Although a quick glance in his direction or a look at the ever-expanding size of his "doesn't fit anymore" clothes pile will also tell you that.

I must say I'm relieved to know he will have teeth -- it will be much easier for him to get and keep a job, I'm sure.  It's also good that he'll be able to chew his own food at some point -- assuming he gets a few more.  And it's gratifying to learn that the rivers of saliva we've been sopping up in recent weeks have actually had a legitimate purpose.

That said, I just know he's going to bite me with it.  More to the point, there's no going back.  He's not a toothless baby anymore.  His little smile is changing.

Changing . . . I've put my finger on it.  That's what I'm not keen on.  Right now, I am loving his baby face and all the grins and grunts and squeals he generates.  Seeing him change significantly by getting a tooth is just a harbinger of more radical non-baby-like things to come.  I'm not ready for that.

My dear friend Dana, who serendipitously visited us from Maine recently, reminded me that being a parent means experiencing lots of "little deaths" or the ends of things you find sweet and dear about your child.  Luckily, these tragic losses are usually salved by new, fun, and exciting things your child does.  Nevertheless, these milestones mean saying goodbye to a sweet stage of life, permanently.

Intellectually, I know being a parent means moving forward -- always toward the end of launching your offspring successfully as an independent, happy, healthy, clear-thinking person into the world.

I'm just not ready for that process to involve teeth.  Not this week anyway . . .

Wy's first tooth popped through the gum on June 6, 2011.