International Pinot Noir Celebration

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I had the most amazing time with the most amazing people at the IPNC. The food was beyond belief and the wine flowed endlessly. I think it’s more easily described in photos than words… enjoy!

Canning Book Reviews

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I have been meaning to do one of these for awhile. Though the internet is all well and good, there is nothing like having a book on hand. What if I need to can and the electricity is out and the www is not accessible? Or what if I am just too damn lazy and sick of staring at a screen, so I would rather just rifle through a book for awhile. (I know this all sounds so silly coming from a blog and all, but hey, I love books and tangible hand held items so whatev). Anyways, check out my reviews, support some authors, and try out some of their tasty recipes:

Perfect Preserves by Hilaire Walden

This book is a lot more than just putting things in jars; there are sections on smoking, salting, crystallizing, canning, pickling, almost all possible preservation methods under the sun. This 160ish page book is full of beautiful photos (a must for me, I gotta know what it looks like before I try it out) and some pretty great recipes. The instructions are easy to follow; with step by step guides that include pictures of every step. I think this cookbook is a great place to start, but might not be beneficial to someone who is already an avid preservationist. Most of the books is well written instructions, with a few pretty ordinary recipes. A great beginners books.

Food In Jars by Marisa McClellan

Since I began reading Marisa McClellan’s blog almost a year ago, I have waited anxiously for this book to hit the shelves. I bought it the first week it came out on Amazon because (1) her recipes are original and fun and (2) Marisa is the least pretentious sounding food writer I have heard in a long time and I wanted the chance to support what I assume to be a good wholesome person.

Anyways, Food In Jars is 240ish page book “jam” packed (haha see that, I made a funny) with recipes. All of Marisa’s recipes are boiling water canning method, making them easy and accessible to pretty much anyone. She also has a variety of small and large batch canning recipes. This is great because people like me prefer the large batches, while many of my friends enjoy doing small batches to put in the fridge every once in awhile. The bulk of Food in Jars includes jams, jellies, and pickled things, but the end of the book contains other fun “jar” recipes like nut butters, granolas, and baking mixes.

I have already made tons of recipes from this book and have about 30 more dog eared for future canning. Soon to come: Oven Roasted Peach Butter and Mimosa Jelly. Yumm… thanks Marisa!

Tart and Sweet by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler

This books is very appealing to me in a way the others are not. The colors are cool and calm, the photos and lay out feel rustic and simple to me, and the way the author writes makes the process of preservation feel all very natural (as it should). The aspect I enjoy most about this cookbook is the way the recipes are divided by seasons. First of all, this makes them easier to find, and secondly, this just makes more sense! Canning is all about eating seasonally and preserving what’s juicy, sweet, and poppin’!

Tart and Sweet, like Food in Jars, only does Water Bath Canning as well and has a very accessible and understanding introduction into canning. I also like that they add a “tweaking a recipe to your liking” section, because I constantly change recipes and with canning it is important to keep adequate amounts of acid and salt for safety reasons. I also constantly exchange sugar for honey and  find it helpful to have a guide so that I do not add too much.

The authors also included a “difficulty scale” to their recipes: one little red jar equals ‘easy’ while three little red jars equals ‘more involved.’ This is good for not only beginners but also seasoned canners who are on a time crunch.

Some recipes I am looking forward to trying: Peach Lavender Jam, Blackberry Syrup, and Horseradish Beer Mustard.

 

Put Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton

So, even though I have two friends that currently own this books, I had to get one for myself (is that wasteful? I’m sorry…). But I am constantly flipping through the pages of this high energy, eclectic, and overall original recipe book.

The books is broken down alphabetically by each fruit or vegetable and usually includes a few canning, some drying, and some other interesting technique for preserving that item. For example, the Chilies section includes: Red Hot Vodka, Pickled Chili Peppers, Ristras, Charred Chilies BBQ sauce, Chili Tomato Jam, and more!

The first 100 pages include information on drying, infusing, canning, pickling, freezing, fermenting, bottling, etc. The next almost 200 pages are all recipes. This cookbook is my go to place for interesting and fun recipes that always turn out well and are sure to impress.

These cookbooks should get you going on your canning adventures! Happy canning!

We be jammin’

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Oh the possibilities of July. The berries are in full force with perfected sweetness, vibrant colors, and flavor oozing with every drop of juice. I had to get my hands on some, so I went to two different UPicks. River Bend Farm and Pleasant Hill Orchards is a great little farm that uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is the farming process where many steps are taken to keep infestations at bay, using organic practices, and, at the very last straw, using pesticides. While this is not completely ideal, I spoke with the farmer and she said that she did not have to spray that year. I have talked about this before, but this is one of the choices one must take when eating locally and on a budget. The strawberries were about $1 a pound, had not been sprayed, looked healthy, so I decided to support the farm. I got about 20lbs of strawberries, some happy duck eggs, and  as we were leaving, the owner came out and gave us a strawberry pie. Very sweet farmer and in a beautiful location.

The second farm is Detering Orchards (which I have mentioned before). They have a similar viewpoint as River Bend Farm. The blueberries are no spray, and the peaches and cherries are occasionally sprayed before the tree fruits.

Another point I want to make about the jammin’ season is that I use Pamona’s Universal Pectin. This pectin is great because it does not require loooadddss of sugar to make it solidify. Pamona’s includes a packet to make calcium water, which is added to the fruit mixture, and acts as a helper to the pectin in the thickening process. No sugar necessary.

Honey Orange Strawberry Jam (about 8 pints)

  • 16 c strawberries
  • 1/2 c lemon juice
  • 1 T orange extract
  • 2 c honey
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 packet Pamona’s Universal Pectin

Directions: Cook down the strawberries in a pot with lemon juice and orange extract until thick and jammy (I like to blend the fruit up with a stick blender, but if you like thicker chunks you can just mash them with a potato masher). Add the honey, and (you will want to read the direction on the Pamona’s packet) add the proper amount of calcium water. Let simmer 5-10 minutes to bring all flavors together. Mix the proper amount of pectin with the remaining cup of sugar. Bring the jam to a boil and add the pectin sugar, stirring vigorously so that there are no chunks of pectin left floating around. These chunks are not pleasant at all. Let boil for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Immediately pour jam into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (for pints). Remove from water and let sit out for 24 hours before putting away or moving around too much.

Spiced Blueberry Jam (about 3 pints) adapted from Marisa McClellan’s recipe in Food In Jars

  • 8 c blueberries
  • 2 c honey
  • Zest and Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ground cloves (depending on how much you like cloves)
  • Pamona’s Universal Pectin

Directions: Smash the blueberries and place in pot with honey (reserve 1/2 c of honey for later). Make sure you smash them in the beginning to get the juices flowing and so you dont burn your blueberries. Cook down berries with spices and Pamona’s calcium water until thick, simmer here for 5-10 minutes. Take the 1/2 c honey you reserved early and mix the pectin in. Its easier to heat the honey first and add pectin. Bring the berry mixture to a boil, add pectin honey, and stir vigorously until all pectin is incorporated. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour into sterilized jars. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Happy Jamming!

Seasons first canning…

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The first flavors of the summer: Radishes and Rhubarb.

Early Grey Vanilla Rhubarb Jam (adapted from Food In Jars recipe) makes 6-8 jars

  • 16 c chopped rhubarb (about 6 pounds)
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1 c honey
  • 2 c double-strength brewed Earl Grey tea
  • 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 packets Pamona’s Universal Pectin (this kind of pectin does not require as much sugar, or any at all)

Directions: Prepare jars and lids in boiling water to sanitize. Meanwhile, bring sugars and tea to a boil in a large pot. Add rhubarb, vanilla, and juice of lemon. Simmer until rhubarb is broken down completely and add pectin as packet directs. Add hot jam to jars, leaving 1/2-1 inch of head space and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

This jam is tasty and tart, but does not have a very strong earl grey flavor. I would suggest adding more tea to the mix, or maybe even the tea leaves themselves. Another note about this recipe is that I used brown sugar, which significantly altered the color. I like the taste of brown sugar and honey  much more, but be prepared to have a much darker product.

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Pickled French Radishes (makes one jar, but is easily adjusted for more)

  • 1 bunch of radishes (i like to leave just a little bit of the green on the top, just to be pretty)
  • 1 c distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • Peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Horseradish root (cut into long strips)

Directions: Sanitize and prepare jars. Heat all ingredients until boiling. Stuff the jars as full as possible with radishes. Add the hot liquid. Wipe rim and seal lid. Place in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I added the horseradish root because I read that it helps keep crunchiness in pickles. I also love the kick of horseradish and thought it could compliment the bite of the radishes.

Happy canning!

Back to the Basics

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These past few weeks have been hectic, yet rewarding, with each day being better than the last. I have finally found stability in the last couple of days, and am more eager than ever to continue my search for basic wholesome living. I have managed to get a few canning projects done, but I fear I have missed some fruits and vegetables that I intended to put up or freeze. The rhubarb is pretty much gone, and though I managed to get a few jars of jam, I had many more ideas for the tart stalk. Also, I haven’t seen many radishes, though I think they will be in and out for awhile. My saddest fault was losing track of the asparagus. I tried to eat as much as a I could, but with prices at $9 a pound, I couldn’t afford to can any. Oh well, I guess a Bloody Mary is still a Bloody Mary without a pickled asparagus spear (but just barely).

Fast approaching are those summer coveted fruits: cherries, blueberries, and  raspberries. I caught my first glimpse of the sweet beauties yesterday at the Saturday Farmers’ Market and now I am itching to get out pickin’.  I, with the help of some friends, picked about 30lbs of strawberries recently. But unfortunately my timing was a thing to be scoffed at because family was to show up in the next couple days and then graduation and then more family and so on. So they are resting in the freezer until I have my chance to make jam out of them. This year I am think Strawberry Honey Jam and Strawberry Basil Jelly. I’ll report on that soon.

Stew, the rabbit, is getting pretty big. Shane and I are figuring about one more month before we breed and feed. (That sentence was loaded with horrible jokes, I apologize). But in all seriousness, we will hopefully be breeding him sometime within the next month, and because the male and female bunnies do not get along well (unless they are doing the deed) then we must immediately separate them, meaning we will basically eat Stew soon after.

These past couple months have given me a lot more respect for rabbits; they are cute to the ends of the earth, and will stop at nothing to try to escape. I recently tried to build Stew a run, just for a bit more space and leg room. It was just one problem after the next. I put up a little “picket” fence, and the first thing he tries to do is burrow under it. So while I am searching for rocks to put around the edges, the little shit tries to jump over. I stop my search for rocks and begin to put chicken wire over the top of the run. After the jumping problem was averted, I again go back to searching for rocks. When I turn and look back, half of his body is through the picket fence. So, needless to say, Stew is not allowed in his run. I can tell he has been mad at me ever since, he is constantly kicking water from his bowl up at me, spitting out strawberries I try to give him, and just overall snubbing me. Those tricky rabbits….

My attempt at a garden is going pretty well so far. There is very limited sunshine (especially as of late with all the constant rain) but the potatoes are ferociously taking over the garden, the few tomato plants we have are doing well, and everything is crawling along slowly. I am happy just as long as nothing dies.

Next projects coming up are canning of strawberries, cherries, and dilly beans. Also, I am planning on doing some more sewing of grocery bags and mainly just food related things. My canning recipes will be up within the next couple of days. Happy summer!

Media’s Helping and Hindering Hand in the Organic and Local Food Movement

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Check out my thesis. Let me know your thoughts/critiques/etc please!

j413 final paper

I will have more fun stuff up soon. So much fun to come!

<a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/”><img alt=”Creative Commons License” style=”border-width:0″ src=”http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by-nd/3.0/88×31.png&#8221; /></a><br /><span xmlns:dct=”http://purl.org/dc/terms/&#8221; href=”http://purl.org/dc/dcmitype/Text&#8221; property=”dct:title” rel=”dct:type”>Organic Media: Media's Helping and Hindering Hand in the Organic Food Movement</span> by <a xmlns:cc=”http://creativecommons.org/ns#&#8221; href=”diyjournal.wordpress.com” property=”cc:attributionName” rel=”cc:attributionURL”>Megan French</a> is licensed under a <a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/”>Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License</a>.

Welcoming back the sunshine

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I have always been a lover of autumn: warm days, brisk evenings, overwhelming colors, pumpkins, ahh…. But recently, I have been having an affair with a month called May. Its refreshing, colorful, giving, and boy is it tasty. The strawberries have began seducing market goers with their vibrant juicy bodies, rhubarb is adding tang to all desserts, radishes are spicing up my sandwiches and salads, the snap peas and carrots are sweeter than ever, and the asparagus… oh asparagus… well, to say the least, I am a happy girl. With all the amazing variety around me, I am inspired and my belly is full.

Also, opening day of fishing was April 28 and we finally managed to get out to Blue River Reservoir last weekend. We caught five trout. And by “we caught,” I mean Shane caught four and I caught one (it was the first and the biggest though!). We brought them home and I took the liberty of gutting and filleting them for a learning experience. I have done portions of the work before, but never the whole process. I took kind of nitty gritty photos of the process, so those with a weak stomach quickly scroll down or stay tuned for my next post!

Step One: I like to soak/wash the fish in icy cold water to get rid of the debris on the outside and to kind of stiffen them up (I’m sorry, kind of sad and weird, but true!)

Step Two: Make an incision from the jaw down to the anus. Over a bucket or bowl, remove organs. If you are a real geeky science-y type, dissect the stomach open and see what the little guys been eating. (Maybe you’ll want to get bait like that next time you go out… just saying…).

Step Three: Cut off the head (unless you want it there, but I think its easier for the next step for it to be gone). Now the head and parts of the fish can be used to make stock. I chose not to do this, but its a great way to use all the parts of the fish.

Step Four: (This is the grossest step) I find it easiest-and its the way my dad taught me- to run my thumb nail down the underpart of the spine to remove the veins and excrement. You can also use a spoon or something with a blunt edge.

Step Five: Rinse the fish inside and out and store/cook properly.

Bam. That wasn’t so bad now, was it?

After I finished cleaning all the fish, I froze three (with date and lake written on the bag) and cooked two of the rainbow beauties up. I stuffed the insides with slices of new onion, butter, basil, and garlic. I sprinkled the skin with salt, pepper, and a bit of lemon juice. I find with cooking fish: the simpler the better. I grilled up some zucchini, asparagus, and spring garlic with salt and pepper. Simple, delicious, and oh so satisfying.

Headed out fishing at Dexter Lake yesterday with no luck at all. We are going back to Blue River this weekend to try and get the freezer stocked up for the months to come.

I love these spring days where I can eat a pint of strawberries and bunch of carrots or a “salad” of basil, snap peas, and radishes for lunch. Stew (the bunny) is happy with all the tops from the turnips and radishes. The potatoes I planted (on a whim) are gorgeous and thriving. I graduate in 3.5 weeks from the University in Oregon. All seems beautiful and right with the world.