Monday, August 30, 2010

Apricot-Pineapple Jam

Apricots are a very soft fruit that is difficult to transport to markets, and they are not as popular as many other fruits available this time of year. As a result, many growers have stopped producing and selling them. I watch for the brief period when they show up at our Farmer's Market and when they do, I immediately buy some to make Apricot-Pineapple Jam.

We made this jam every year on the ranch when I was growing up there. The Farm Journal describes it as 'pure gold' and in the gray darkness of our winters here in the Pacific Northwest, we welcome this bright sunshine-gold jam on toast -or jam on pancakes and waffles European-style, rather than North American-style with maple syrup.

Despite anxieties and intimidating directions surrounding the process, making jam is really easy: Chop up the fruit, add sugar and cook it until its jam. "What they don't tell you is that when it has turned into jam, it looks like jam. It is thick and has the consistency of cold molasses" points out the immortal and always amusing Laurie Colwin in her essay 'Jam Anxiety.' It really is that easy.

Apricot-Pineapple Jam
Adapted from Farm Journal's Freezing and Canning Cookbook

Mix in heavy bottomed preserving pot:
8 c. (about 4 lbs) diced apricots
8 c. sugar
Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes.

2-20 oz cans crushed pineapple, drained
Bring to a boil again. I often don't actually read these incredibly simple directions and then of course, forget and dump the undrained pineapple in with the apricots and sugar. I just cook it all for 30 minutes or "until it looks like jam" and it works out just fine.

Put jam in jars and seal. Leave undisturbed overnight. Label and store. Makes 6 pints.

Note: Use some slightly under ripe fruit. If all the apricots are dead ripe, the jam will have a softer set -not a bad thing if serving it on pancakes and waffles.

Apricot-Pineapple Jam mixed with an equal amount of soy sauce and a bit of white wine or rice vinegar makes a really great glaze to baste on grilled or roasted meats, and pork tenderloin and duck breast are especially good with this glaze. This is roasted goat I made last night for dinner.

Yesterday after I'd made this jam, we harvested our potatoes, and I was making pickled carrots and dill pickles and packaging goat meat. For dinner I put these vegetables in the roasting pan with a bit of water before adding the meat. Bake 350 for 1 1/2-2 hours covered, and add glaze last 15 minutes of cooking, without the cover. So easy and so good.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Moroccan-Style Pork Shoulder Roast

After coming and shearing my sheep, Constance also drove up to Granite Falls and sheared fellow guild member, Becky Zegstroo's two lambs. I visited Becky and Chris' place (Farm Visit post) not too long ago. Becky, with her deceptively quiet demeanor, sent me this fun photo of herself. I fell in love with their Jacob Sheep and...

...their young Highland cow. I think she is absolutely adorable!

Becky sent me this photo of the boys after their shearing. If anything they are even cuter! I know Becky can't wait to get her fleece back from being processed and to start spinning. There is such immense satisfaction to be found in using that which you have raised yourself, both fiber and food.

The following is a recipe Chris made for a guild pot luck last year and getting the recipe is how I met Becky. As soon as I tasted it I knew I had to have the recipe. It is so good! It is a remarkable combination of comforting and exotic, savory and sweet, complex but easy -everything I love in a casserole. After discovering who had brought it, I introduced myself to her, begged the recipe and later e-mailed a reminder (I'm shameless when in pursuit of food). I'm so glad I persisted because I may not have got to know Becky otherwise. And now I have this great recipe! In a couple of weeks when the pig we raised this summer returns from the butcher's shop as packaged pork, Chris' casserole is one of the first things I'm going to make.

Moroccan-Style Pork Shoulder Roast
Submitted by The National Pork Board to

Trim visible fat from 4-5 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast
Drizzle with 2 T. soy sauce
Rub with 2 T. curry powder
Brown roast in 1-2 T. olive oil in Dutch oven

2 sweet potatoes (or golden nugget squash), peeled and cut into large chunks
1-2 sweet (red, yellow or orange) peppers, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. dried fruit, mix of apricots, plums and raisins
15 oz. can lite coconut milk
1/2 c. OJ
Cover with lid and roast in 350 degree oven 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until potatoes (or squash) are tender. For traditional Moroccan-style: Remove meat and vegetables to a platter. Coarsely shred meat. On stove top, heat Dutch oven and bring sauce to a boil. Cook 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Either, pour sauce over meat and vegetables on platter, or serve alongside in small pitcher, with a mound of cooked couscous. For a less traditional potluck or casserole style: return meat and vegetables to Dutch oven (or simply remove the lid for the last 15-30 minutes while roasting and shred meat in Dutch oven) and mix in cooked couscous.
Note: Couscous is one of the easiest things in the world to cook. What's available in the USA is instant couscous. You simply put 2 1/2 c. instant couscous (I buy mine in the bulk foods section) in a dish, add 2 1/2 c. boiling water and 1/2 t. salt. Stir vigorously. Cover and leave 10 minutes. Mix in 2 T. olive oil and fluff or rub to break up lumps. If you want it steaming hot, put in a 400 degree oven to heat for 20 minutes. Stir or fluff again before serving.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shearing Day

Until this year I've done my own shearing. It takes me several hours to do one sheep -that's not necessarily a bad thing, just time consuming. This year due to problems with my shoulder and wrist joints, I had Constance Wiseman shear my sheep. To contact her (click here). Here she is trimming Kia's hooves before starting to shear. Constance trained at the Washington State Shearing School and though a petite woman, she handles my ewes and lambs quite competently. She sheared Paris the ram beast this spring with the aid of hobbles and I was absolutely delighted to see him subdued without anything but his pride being hurt. Yesterday, Constance spoke gently to the lambs and Kia while shearing and handling them, and you can see Kia didn't mind at all.

After shearing Kia, Constance also sheared three lambs. Shearing is hard work and I am delighted to have the job done in just a few hours. Afterwards, Kia, all shorn and lovely, relaxes in the barn with the two confused shorn lamb rams. They didn't recognize each other after being sheared and felt compelled to pummel the daylights out of each other for quite awhile -silly sheep. Constance took Kia's fleece with her and will process it into roving. Shearing and processing all at once is great service. Now, if only she would clean the barn too!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Daily Walk

One of the really great things about where we live is that it is a great place for walking. I try to walk every day, usually this same three mile loop. Sometimes, I will see deer and other wildlife crossing the road here, or a woodpecker, hawk, or owl up in the trees.

Yesterday, I noticed that the blackberries are getting ripe. My son has been wanting a blackberry pie and I have been giving him daily reports on the state of the berries and the likelihood of a blackberry pie appearing in our kitchen soon.

I love seeing all the different animals on my walk. I have watched this dog over the past year grow up and go through the various stages of her puppyhood. She is an absolute sweetheart and is always delighted to see me.

This is Daisy and Dolly. I met their owners while walking one day and they told me the donkey's names. My kids absolutely adore the donkeys. Around the corner...

...are the recently shorn alpacas. Or are they llamas? (I think they're llamas)

There are quite a few horses in my neighborhood. Two of my favorites are this gorgeous black creature,

and this little foal, who is pretty cute though he no longer has his adorable bottle brush tail.

Black Angus cows are raised across the road from...

...Wendy's sheep. I've stopped and chatted with her a few times about raising goats, sheep and poultry, and gardening and rural living. For more about her and her farm (click here).

The pond is empty this time of year but in the spring it is full of ducks, frogs and an occasional blue heron. The ducks try, rather unsuccessfully, to raise their ducklings here. The cars, dogs and predators make it very difficult for them to survive.

And I'm almost home. I really enjoy my walks and all the animals in the neighborhood. I am so very fortunate to be living this life.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Natural Born Killers

Shortly after moving here, we went to the animal shelter and came home with a cat. Her name was Sunshine -her owner had been sent to prison and she was without a home. She soon became pregnant and delivered a litter of kittens which were really, really fun.

We were lucky to find really great homes for all the kittens besides the two we kept for ourselves. One is my youngest daughter's that she named Seraphina, or Sara. The second my son named Zippy. Sadly, it was hit by a car and killed when only a few months old.

To replace Zippy, we got another shelter cat for my son's birthday and he named her Lyra. All three are outside barn cats who relish their job of catching mice, rats, and moles, as well as snakes, an occasional bird, baby squirrels...

...and the wee wild bunnies we have. Cats are just natural born killers. As unsavory as it sometimes is to see when we come upon them at their job, this is what they do. Without a few cats around here, to do what cats do, we would soon have a serious rodent problem. And despite being cute, the bunnies multiplying unchecked, would become a disaster in the garden. Of course, the other natural born killers, the coyote, raccoons and opossums, kill and eat these same rodents and bunnies, too -its their role in the big scheme of things. It's just that our poultry are every bit as tasty and easier to catch. Thankfully, the cats leave our poultry alone -once the chicks and ducklings are big enough, that is. They are natural born killers after all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fresh Peach Pie

I learned to make pie pastry from my mom when I was very young and I have been practicing ever since. For a two crust pie pastry, I toss together 3 c. flour and 1 t. salt, then cut in 3/4 - 1 c. lard or vegetable shortening or a mix of either with half butter, which will give a better flavor. When crumbles are the size of small peas, I stir in just enough water to bring together pastry dough without over mixing it -about 1/3 c. more or less (this is the part where experience pays off). Adding a dash of vinegar or lemon juice will help break down the gluten but I don't always do this. I form pastry into a disc, wrap it in cling wrap and refrigerate for several hours to overnight. I think this is a crucial step in making great pie crusts, though my mom never did and hers were always excellent. After chilling disc, I roll 2/3 pastry to form the bottom crust and fit it into the pie dish with a bit hanging over to form the edge.

Fresh peaches this time of year from the Farmers Market are fantastic. I think the best thing you can do with a peach is put it into a pie and serve it warm with vanilla ice cream. Of course, I think that's the best thing to do with a lot of other fruits, too. For a peach pie, I buy 7 or so huge, luscious ripe peaches. When the pastry has chilled and I am ready to make a pie, I plunge peaches into boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, then put them into cold water and their skins easily slip off. I slice peaches into a bowl, discarding the pits, and toss with 2 T. lemon juice. In a separate bowl I mix together:
2/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
1/8 t. nutmeg
then mix with peaches and scrape all into pastry-lined pie dish and dot with butter.

For peach pie, I alway roll out the remaining 1/3 pastry and cut it to make a lattice crust. I think it looks lovely. I form it by laying the longest strips down the center, alternating directions, adding more strips and weaving until the top crust is formed. I usually flute the edge or fold it first over the top of the lattice ends. I try to remember to put the pie onto a pizza or baking sheet while baking to catch the drips that are inevitable with a full, juicy pie filling. My directions say to bake 400-425 for 20 minutes, lower heat to 350 degrees, and bake 45 minutes more or until done when juices bubble up in the center of pie.

I was in a hurry and took this pie out before the juices bubbled up in the center. It was too soon and as a result its rather anemic-looking. I knew it wasn't quite ready at the time, but was hoping maybe it would be good enough. Hoping something is what you want, does not make it so. I guess I will just have to practice more.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Little Bee

"I think I shall teach you the names of all the English flowers. This is fuchsia, and this is a rose, and this is honeysuckle. What? What are you smiling about?"

"There are no goats. That is why you have all these beautiful flowers."

"There were goats in your village."

"Yes, and they ate all the flowers."

"I'm sorry."

"Do not be sorry. We ate all the goats."

-From Little Bee by Chris Cleave. This is such a good book. It is a very touching story, often both funny as well as heartbreaking, centered around a 16 year old refuge girl from Nigeria, a British couple, their small son, and the unexpected intersection of their lives. From the book cover: "Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Old Farmhouse Hazard

My daughter took this with her cell phone while waiting in the ER with me yesterday. "HOW did you DO that?" every medical person asked me when they saw it. They were all pretty impressed. I was vigorously scrubbing cupboards (very old wood cupboards) and pierced my thumb with a splinter. Big splinters are a hazard of old farmhouses. Nasty, eh?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Oyster Po' Boy Sandwiches

A Guide to Seattle's 48 Best Sandwiches in the August issue of Seattle Magazine, recommends where to buy the very best of many different sandwiches in the Seattle area. They include several picks for my favorite, the Vietnamese Sandwich or Bahn Mi: A crisp baguette roll, pickled carrot and daikon salad, fresh cilantro, cucumber wedges and jalapeno slices and grilled chicken or pork with a smear of mayo and a douse of Maggi Sauce. I say a lot of foods are my 'absolute favorite' and at the time I am talking about them, or eating them, IT IS TRUE. I'm an enthusiastic eater. But honestly, Vietnamese Sandwiches are one of the best foods you'll ever eat. Seattle Magazine lists the Seattle Deli in the International District having one of the best and the cheapest, and they are right. Absolute heaven for $2.

Every Friday night during the month of August The Seattle Center and KEXP are presenting Concerts at the Mural. My husband and oldest daughter both work in Seattle, and its been fun the last two Friday's with the family coming from all different directions, meeting at the Seattle Center, spreading a blanket and eating sandwiches. Oh yeah, and listening to music. The first week my husband brought Vietnamese Sandwiches from The Seattle Deli. Last week was my turn and I made Oyster Po' Boys.

Oyster Po' Boys are straightforward but like the Vietnamese Sandwich their success depends on good fresh ingredients. A questionable oyster does not bring joy to those who bite into it, but a fresh plump oyster, dipped in egg...

...breaded with Italian Bread crumbs, and then carefully fried, is a treat to all who are lucky enough to eat with you. And they really are pretty simple to make.

Oyster Po' Boys

Beat 4 eggs in a shallow dish and dump in 1 quart drained oysters.

Heat 4 inches of oil in a Dutch oven or deep fryer until a bread chunk browns in 15 seconds.

Put 1 c. Italian bread crumbs in a quart Ziploc bag or shallow dish.

4 eggy oysters at a time, coat with bread crumbs and gently slide into hot oil. Fry until golden brown, turning once or twice. Beware of spatters.

Drain on paper towels or newspaper, and continue frying all oysters.

Slice 6 good sandwich rolls open but not all the way through. Slather with tartar sauce, add shredded garden lettuce, sliced tomatoes and sliced sweet onions. Wrap securely in freezer paper or aluminum foil for transporting. Let everyone douse liberally (or not) with Red Hot and enjoy.

My oldest daughter works at Pike Place Market and took one of the leftover sandwiches (refrigerated overnight) to work the next day for lunch. She said it practically drew a crowd. Several customers 'Oooed' and 'Aahhed' and said "Oh, that looks so good!" and asked her where they could buy one. Now, Seattle Magazine recommends the Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish at Matt's in the Market and a smoked oyster po' boy at Roy's BBQ in Columbia City. But this particular oyster po' boy? She answered, "You can't."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Farm Visit

It is so much fun watching the chicks we hatched in June becoming big chickens now. They are so pleased with themselves just being chickens and doing chicken stuff! Yesterday I visited the farm of some like-minded people undertaking similar animal husbandry projects. It was fun to see all their animals, good to hear the values, frustrations and observations of raising animals for family food shared by others, and to know we are not alone in pursuing this lifestyle. Like us, they were raising rabbits and chickens, as well as...

a prolific flock of Broadbreasted White Turkeys, including breeding turkeys and quite a few growers (I'm going to miss having turkey in the freezer this winter). There was also...

...a flock of Embden, Sebastopol and Pilgrim Geese. The trio we lost last winter to the coyotes were Pilgrim Geese, and seeing these yesterday reinforced the desire to get more next spring. They also had chocolate colored Muscovies, one with 10 ducklings. Of course, that can change overnight as life is very hard and there are lots of lethal dangers for little ducklings. We couldn't find the peacocks that were hiding from the heat. Smart peacocks.

It was also exciting to see animals that I have admired and thought of raising, like Highland cows and...

...Jacob Sheep. They are so cute and have such nice fiber. Both of these animals have horns -hornless being a characteristic I like in animals we raise. I'll keep reminding myself that 1) we don't need another animal project, and 2) you can't do everything -even if you really, really want to. Their little faces are pretty adorable, though and hard to resist!

Monday, August 16, 2010


With temperatures close to 9o degrees yesterday, making gazpacho for dinner and spinning in the shade all afternoon was my idea of a lovely Sunday afternoon. Gazpacho is the perfect food to have on sweltering days like we're having now. With some guacamole and corn chips on the side, its absolutely perfect.

Adapted from The Best of Sunset
In a gallon glass jar mix and refrigerate:
46 oz. can tomato juice
2 c. chicken broth
5 dashes Tabasco Sauce
4 diced tomatoes
1 T. olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 large sweet onion, diced
14 oz. can black olives, sliced
2 large firm, just ripe avocados, cubed
juice of 2 (or more) limes -quartered limes, tough attractive will make it bitter
2 cucumbers, seeded and diced
1/4 c. fresh cilantro leaves
1 t. each fresh lemon thyme leaves, oregano leaves, and basil leaves (or 1/2 t. dried Italian Seasoning)
Chill and serve with croutons and squeezed quartered limes