Thursday, May 30, 2013

preserving caramelized garlic

Several days ago, I saw this beautiful glazed brown garlic on Pinterest and clicked through to find a post on preserving garlic. At first I couldn't quite see the usefulness since garlic keeps pretty well once dried. But the more I got to thinking about it, how wonderful would it be to have small jars of caramelized garlic ready for a pizza topping or to add flavor to soup or a vegetable dish.

The ingredients for this particular recipe were few, a plus when decided to preserve something at the spur of the moment. (Although this is actually my first time owning sherry vinegar, I think.)

I did neglect to account for the amount of time it would take to peel all that garlic. I have heard that using 2 stainless steel bowls to make a sphere and shaking vigorously will peel the garlic much more quickly, but I only own 1 stainless steel bowl.  Will this trick work with other bowls? If not, I'm not sure how eager I am to replicate this particular adventure.

The aroma of sherry vinegar and caramelizing garlic was almost enough to make me forget about the hour spent peeling.

I also didn't realize that I'd need my pressure canner for garlic. (Another reason I should read the ENTIRE recipe before beginning.) I wasn't in the mood to dig out my large canner from the garage just yet. (Once it's inside, it generally stays in for the summer, and I'm not ready to lose that interior space yet.) I decided to use my little 4 quart pressure cooker, which has an insert for the bottom. This meant using 4 oz (ish) jars though so they wouldn't be too tall.  I managed to get 6 jars out of this batch.

I did notice that some of the oil oozed out of the jars during the canning process.  It seems like the lone little weck jar might have been the culprit. It wasn't much oil, but it made a mess, of course!

I can't wait to break into one of these bad boys!  If they taste anything like the garlic remnants I scraped off the bottom of my skillet, another round of preserved caramelized garlic might be in order. Now where to find some bowls to make my peeling easier...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Yarn Along

I really haven't gotten much further on my second January Girl sock than I was last week.  As you can see below, the knitting has taken backseat to other crafting. In the reading department, most of my reading time has been with my canning books.  I guess all of the strawberry canning really got me into the mood to check out some new canning recipes for this year.

The bulk of my crafting time this past week was with this little project.  Philip has been into Star Wars for years now and when I saw this little cross stitch piece on Facebook, I thought he would love it. The pattern was easy to find on Etsy, and only required a few colors so it was a quick project to stitch. I also found some Death Star fabric on Etsy which I'll use to make this cross stitch piece into a little throw pillow for his bed. I'm planning to save it for his birthday (in Oct, which also holds another family birthday, and I'm a planner, what can I say.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I didn't have my laptop with me this weekend for a proper "weekending" post, but the weekend was so lovely that I wanted to share anyway.  We visited out-of-town friends for the baptism of their 1 month old, good company, amazing weather, and a bit of chicken chasing, of course. Finn became quite adept at the chicken-carrying hold and even learned about bit about chicken chores (otherwise known as poop scooping). He took to all things chicken with gusto and asked several times when we could get chickens.  (I wish we could! Someday.) I hope your weekend was equally beautiful.

Monday, May 27, 2013

strawberry picking and canning

Just before the holiday weekend hit, since the children at Elizabeth's and Finn's school were out of school at noon, we decided to pick strawberries with a few other families who were interested.  Many of the local (spray-free) you-pick farms were closed on Friday to save strawberries for the weekend pickers, but we managed to find an out-of-the-way farm with plenty ripe and ready-for-picking berries.

In fact, I nearly filled my first gallon bucket in 10 feet of row...and in less than 10 minutes!

Of course, the kids ate nearly as many as they picked.

I think Finn was just rooting through the bushes to find the fattest, juiciest berries to eat while we picked.

Each of the kids did manage to fill their buckets at least half way.

(And Finn probably ate at least that many!)

The older girls did their picking as far away from the moms as they could manage.  They each picked nearly a gallon though.

The berry picking was over once several of the kids found a giant pile of dirt to conquer.

Once we were back home, I started processing and canning the strawberries quickly as we were heading out of town for the weekend early on Saturday morning. With the 4 gallons we picked, I made some Strawberry-Vanilla Jam, Strawberry-Mango Jam, and a few pints of Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate.  (I had already purchased 3 gallons at the farmer's market and canned Strawberry Jam and Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate some of those.)

As for the recipes, the Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate link is above, and the Strawberry Jam recipe is straight from the Pomona pectin box. For the Strawberry-Mango Jam, I used 2 cups of crushed strawberries, 2 cups of crushed mango, and 1 cup of sugar, then split the difference in the pectin as directed in the box of Pomona pectin.  For the Strawberry-Vanilla Jam, I added a split and scraped 8-inch vanilla bean to 8 cups of crushed strawberries and 2 cups of sugar, then let the berries sit with the vanilla bean for an hour before following the directions in the Pomona pectin for that amount of strawberries. I removed the vanilla bean during the jarring process.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yarn Along

For Yarn Along this week, I have the second sock of the pair I started last week.  The first one went relatively quickly, but then we went camping and I've been distracted by other projects since returning.  I really like the little pattern though.  It's simple enough to easily knit without constantly looking at the pattern, and it looks more complicated than it is. I just started reading The Lost Continent.  Paul bought it for both of us to read before our road trip this summer. I've only just begun therefore I don't have much to say about it yet.  Next week!

Monday, May 20, 2013

peas, beans, tomatoes...and a rat snake

Oh the woes of the backyard gardener.  Or any gardener, I guess.  We've had such trouble with the critters eating our seedlings for the last 2 years. You can see in previous posts how that progressed last year. We left the fence up from last year so that the bunnies wouldn't get the garden, but we still had trouble with field mice, and even birds, this time.  I really hated the plastic wrap that we ended up using last year.  Even though it worked well, the plastic just looked so ugly in the backyard.  A guy at the hardware store said that bird netting would help if we wrapped the fence in that. It really didn't help much at all though. So we found another solution. This motion-activated sprinkler was rather expensive, but if we can get the kids to STOP TURNING IT OFF, then it does quite an effective job. I think that if we can just get our garden past the seedling stage, we can put the sprinkler away until next year.  

While the sprinkler has been working for us, we neglected to remove the bird netting from the fence.  (And I tell you, we will never try that stuff again!) We returned from a shortened-by-rain camping trip this weekend to a poor rat snake stuck in the netting.  His midsection was just too fat to squeeze all the way through.  Paul finally got him out of the fence, but he still had several sections of the netting wrapped around him.

Once he was out of the fence, Paul could better secure his head so that I could painstakingly snip each section of net without harming his scales. After close to an hour of work, he was free to slither off.  I hoped he might stick close by to keep the field mice, chipmunks, and birds away, but I think he might have been scared away by his traumatic experience.

As for the seedlings, they are in various stages of establishment.  They are as follows:



bell pepper (that re-leafed after all but one leaf was eaten by the field mice)


field peas, in the foreground, and bush beans, in the background

and cucumbers, in a new bed that Paul recently added

How is your garden growing?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Yarn Along

For this week's Yarn Along, I just started a new pair of socks for myself with some yarn that has been sitting in my basket way too long. I started using this yarn probably 2 years ago to make some socks that just weren't very fun to knit and required WAY too much attention to the pattern to keep on track. The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Sport in Winter Night, and the new sock pattern is January Girl socks. It's flowing much more smoothly than the last pattern. And I love the thick squishyness of the sport weight yarn for socks. I've been reading bits and pieces of Folks This Ain't Normal.  I've read it before, twice actually, but I find myself drawn to reread certain portions every so often.

I finished the second little French press cozy that I was working on last week. We'll have warm coffee for sure this weekend while we camp! I cast on 60 stitches this time with size 6 needles and worsted weight yarn.  I just held the piece up to the French press to see when it was long enough to cover the exposed glass.

And then added cute little rainbow buttons, of course!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

a happy Mother's Day

Today was a very happy Mother's Day at our house, and I hope the same was true for those of you celebrating today. Although this post doesn't have much to do with Mother's Day itself, it's partly a brag on my husband and partly a brag on his awesome gift.

My husband is one of the world's best gifters. I have no idea how he pulls it off year after year, holiday after holiday. But he manages swoon-worthy gifts for almost every occasion.  Now, I realize that a bundle of glass jars wouldn't be swoon-worthy for every mom to receive on Mother's Day, but here is why he is so amazing at this.  I have canned with mason jars for years.  I have watched my mother and grandmother can with mason jars for many, many years. I never even knew Weck jars existed until I started following Food in Jars blog last year. But even though I thought they were lovely and would be such fun to add to my canning collection, once I saw the price tag, I tucked them away in my head as a maybe-someday-if-I-stumble-across-some-on-sale.  I never even mentioned them to Paul.

What's kind of funny about this gift is that Paul didn't go looking for the crème de la crème of canning jars on the Food in Jars site to surprise me. He just googled canning jars to see if anyone made jars with an interesting design. And now I am the proud owner of a few Wecks.  I can't even decide what to put in them! It seems like they should have a special batch of very pretty jam or pickles worthy of their beauty.

For good measure, Paul also bought The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook, which he apparently heard reviewed on NPR.  When I opened this gift, I joked with him that he might need to build us a new library just for my cookbooks. However, once I dug into this little beauty, I realized that this book is actually a nice addition to our collection, and in fact, I made the Honey Almond Butter today as I needed to make almond butter today anyway.

I hope all the mothers out there felt similarly cherished and loved on this special day for honoring mothers!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Yarn Along

For this week's Yarn Along, I'm working on a larger version of the French press cozy I posted yesterday.  We have a 60 oz French press that also needs to deliver warm coffee whilst we camp in a few weeks. Finn and I have been repeatedly reading d'Aulaires' Book of Trolls over the last couple of weeks.  The d'Aulaires' books are always fabulous, but this one has particularly grabbed Finn lately.

I've also been working on a bit of stitching.  This is my first embroidery project.  I've wanted to learn for a while, and this kit from Amazon seemed like a good way to start.

The chickens I began last week received combs and beaks yesterday just in time for a play date with a 5-year-old friend who adopted this brown one.

Our friend and Finn had a great time helping their chickens lay these wooden eggs.

Finn happily waited for the gray chicken to receive her comb and beak.  Now all of the other kids want one as well.  Too bad I didn't think of this before Easter!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

crafting for camping

In just a couple of weeks, our family will head to the NC mountains with 6 other families to a group campground for the weekend.  As I was thinking on our past camping trips, I thought of a few things I might want, and of course, I saw a few things on Pinterest, that might be useful for camping.  

Firstly, I noticed that while French Press coffee is far superior to other coffees, in my opinion, the required 4 minutes of steep time often cause the coffee to cool more quickly when the temperatures are chilly, as they often are when camping in the spring or fall.  I thought a wool cozy for my coffee press might help that situation a bit.  

To make this little cozy, I cast on 30 stitches and garter stitched for 8 rows, then garter stitched the first and last 5 stitches of each row, while stockinette stitching the middle, for the length of the cozy.  I just measured how long the cozy should be by holding it up to the press.

When I was finished, I realized I should have cast on about 45 stitches to make the cozy wrap all the way around, but it was nothing that couldn't be fixed by a few cute bottons and 3 straps made of 2 stitch i-cord.

I saw the following idea on Pinterest that seemed very handy, a terry toothbrush organizer! I bought an inexpensive hand towel, folded it up so that just the brush heads would stick out, then sewed 3 inch(ish) sections on my sewing machine. There is plenty of room for the 6 toothbrushes we need along with a couple of tubes of toothpaste.  And the bonus: no more soggy toothbrushes in a ziploc bag. Hooray!

I also sewed a length of coordinating ribbon in the seam on the end of the organizer so it could be rolled up and tied.

The last time we camped with friends, the kindling was slightly damp one morning and took forever to get a fire started. Another Pinterest idea that seemed particularly handy: fire starters made from cotton pads dipped in candle wax.  I just dipped mine in extra beeswax. I made about 20, and I assume that will be more than plenty for a weekend camping trip. I used metal tweezers to dip the cotton pads. Super easy!

Do you have any tricks or ideas for easier camping?  I'd love to hear them!