...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.



Two bucketsful and I could have picked two more!
The fruit keeps rolling in.  I just picked up six quarts of black currants from the farmers' market.  I've been running a tab with our CSA farm this year at the farmers' market in exchange for my worker share hours typing recipes for their newsletter and putting up their personal preserves.  I love the idea of bartering like this.  I also love that I know exactly who picked my berries.  A fellow Master Preserver and domestic artist friend works at the farm on Fridays and she assured me that she picked these dark fruits with love and care (and a flock of chickens following her around the farm's orchard where this feathery crew is kept).  I will be cooking down the currants and making them into a rich juice concentrate early next week.  Today I've got cooked blueberries hanging in cheesecloth over a bowl in the kitchen.  Those will be the first into the canner as I begin to replenish my supply of juices for the season.  If local juice-making interests you, please check out the class I'm teaching on August 25 at the urbanecologycenter.org where we will process a batch of juice concentrate and sample some homemade non-alcoholic refreshers just in time to give you ideas for your late summer soirees.

I also retuned to the lakefront to harvest more wild black raspberries this week.  I was trying to top off my bucket (or pick a second bucket) so I could make a batch of simple jam.  Ben had a comp. day so I took the opportunity to do some solo picking while he watched V.  I crept out just after sunrise, hopped on my bike with Vera's toy bucket dangling from the handlebars, and bore the light rain to fill another container.  The mosquitoes were even worse than days before making me believe they'd signed a contract with the raccoons and other critters inhabiting the berry-laden slope to protect their food supply.  It was one of those instances when I pull our homebirth experience to the front of my mind and say to myself "if I can do THAT, then I can get through THIS."  I still managed to emerge from the bramble nibbled to bits with bug bites through my long pants and sweatshirt and in other unmentionable places.  But for such a great cause!  The thought crossing my mind was that there's NO PACKAGING with these fruits as there are even when I pick up at the green market--though at least those containers get reused and recycled.  As Ben graciously helped me around the house on Thursday, I was able to process my raspberry jam and even have time to go out with him that night for a birthday celebration.

Fruit fruit fruit!  It's everywhere these days.  I managed to process the rest of the peaches Ben brought home from work and put together a peach shortcake on Wednesday night.  Though it's not quite time for local peaches, one could set this recipe aside to use in the next few weeks.  I recently acquired a very well worn copy of The Settlement Cookbook, a domestic culinary classic.  No glossy photos or verbose recipe lead-ins, but scads of simple, classic recipes for the home cook.  After Vera's jammy time we three sat in the dimly lit front vestibule observing the rainy evening, and savoring each spoonful. (Vera liked the "cream" best.)

Peach Shortcake (Gluten-Free)
Serves 4

I adapted this for the gluten-free crowd.  One could also use strawberries, blueberries, apricots, raspberries, or whatever fruit is in season right now.  The main thing is to keep it simple.

1 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour
1T. + 1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. xanthan gum
1/4 t. salt
1 T. granulated xylitol or sugar
1/2 stick of cold unsalted butter (2 oz.), cut into small cubes
6 T. milk (or your choice...I used almond milk)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Mix dry ingredients, work in butter with a fork, pastry blender, or your fingers (this is my preferred method, but only if you possess "cold hands.")  Add milk quickly then toss on floured surface.  *Pat, roll, and cut with large biscuit cutter or roll to fit 2 pans and bake 12-15 min.  Cool just slightly and split biscuits in half filled with cold, sweetened fresh fruit, and fresh whipped cream (see below.)

*You can also cut them out and place is a greased muffin pan.

Fresh peaches
Granulated xylitol or sugar, to sweeten as desired
Heavy whipping cream
Powdered sugar
Vanilla extract
Fresh red currants, to garnish (optional)

Mash peaches with potato masher or fork, add sweetener and mash again.  Taste for sweetness.  With whisk, electric beaters, or electric mixer fitted with whip attachment, make sweetened whipped cream ("Chantilly Cream").  Approximately 1 1/2 c. whipping cream, 1/3 c. powdered sugar (or for your taste), and dash of vanilla.  Whip until fluffy and light.

Last night and for the first half of today I had/have a mini-staycation.  Ben and Vera headed down to Chicago to visit Gram-E and Gramps and some other relatives.  I will be joining them by dinnertime after I finish preparing for my Herbal Ice Cream and Baking with Herbs class this coming Monday.  So with no one to depend on me after work yesterday, what do you suppose I did?  At this point, I never quite know what to do first when I don't have a youngin' to attend to.  Directly from work, I went to the annual used book sale at the Cudahy Family Library where I took a small stash of birthday money and lots of time to browse the tables of gently used reading material.  I was very inspired by one of my fellow crafty mamas to look for books that not only have great stories, but are beautiful illustrations.  Vera doesn't need many books for her current interest level, but I found some great stories that we can read together when she's a bit older.  I also found some cool science-based books that I'm hoping she'll like down the road.  It made me wonder how many kids will be interested in picking up these types of books when they have the internet at hand.  One of my goals is to cultivate Vera's love for the hands-on experience of books.  I know "electronic book-reading devices" are great and easy, especially for traveling--as I was just discussing with my close friend at our playdate on Wednesday--but I can't resist touching, feeling, and being surrounded by books and books and books.  I hope Vera will savor them just the same.  Here are some of my favorite finds yesterday.

Beautiful illustrations!
I love the geometry of these graphics--from one of our favorites Don Crews
Will be fun to read this one after a Cape whale watch
Who doesn't love a good European fairy tale?
Ant Queens and Snow Queens
A little science and a little mystery (one of mommy's adolescent favorites--Trixie Belden!)

First Dilly Beans of 2011--Yellow Wax
Last night's break from childcare brought out the best of my geeky side.  Though it was completely tempting to eat bon bons and lie on the couch all night, I opted to make my first batch of dilly beans for the season, clean the fridge (therapy!), fold laundry, and shelve my new books.  Add a cold glass of white wine and it was a night in heaven.  (Doesn't take much to please a busy mama these days.)  But I can't wait to see my two sweeties later today.  Checked in last night and it sounded like they were having fun in swimsuits with G and G's backyard hose.  It was heart-warming to hear my little Bippy's tiny voice on the other end of the phone saying "Hi Mommy, I love you"...and knowing I'll have some fresh pickles to present to her when she returns.

1 comment:

  1. I had that same Trixie Belden book. In fact, I had ALL the Trixie Belden books. (And, sad to say, I also had the blue jumpsuit she's wearing on the cover. That's what we wore for gym class back in the bad old days.)

    It's good to start Vera on books at a very young age. Even though she will be using electronic readers, she will certainly appreciate the feel, the smell, and the joy of real books.