Pear Butter and Tips For Baking Frozen Fruit Pie

I have officially declared this year’s canning season closed. I have canned all of the things. I have used all of the jars. All of them. Aside from one excusable weakness (peaches!), I stuck to my goal of only canning free fruit. This wasn’t too hard this year, actually. Even though our garden production isn’t fully up and running, when friends know you preserve, somehow bags of produce seem to make their way to your back porch. (Lucky me! But really, people, canning season is CLOSED.)

Recently a friend and I were invited to pick some pears from a regal and impressive old tree. Such a gift! I made a lot of chocolate pear jam (which I’m renaming, more appropriately pear butter) from Preserving by the Pint. I look forward to eating this on a snowy day in December in front of a fire – it’s definitely a holiday jam.

 With the pears, also, I made several pear anise pies from the one pie book you absolutely must own. On some of the pies, I added a streusel topping. I froze the pies raw and plan to bake them as needed. To do this, line your empty pie plate with plastic wrap and then build your pie on top. Freeze for about 2-3 hours, then pop out of the plate. Wrap and label. I find it helpful to list which pie plate I used since I have many of varying sizes. To bake a fruit pie from frozen, unwrap, place in plate, and pierce vents on top with a chef’s knife. Follow baking temperature and time in recipe, adding 25-30 extra minutes. If your pie begins to brown, loosely lay a square of foil on the top.

Figs Aplenty

figs aplentyA generous islander gave me some figs from a beautiful, mature tree. So, of course, I had to learn what to do with them right away! We ate a few for breakfast just straight up, with honey and chopped nuts. We gave away a few to friends who had never eaten a fig before. The rest, I found a few ways to preserve them for the rest of the year.

  • I modified this chutney recipe, using dried cherries and omitting the red pepper powder. This will be delicious in the fall and I imagine it on simple fig saladthe Thanksgiving table.
  • From Preserving by the Pint, I made fig and thyme jam. It’s already been enjoyed on cheese platters and turkey sandwiches. Yum.
  • In the steam oven, I dehydrated halved figs for 16 hours. (16?!) I was still unhappy with the level of dryness, so I packaged them for the freezer. I plan to make fig anise bread with these.

Summer

Summer so far has been about fresh veg and a few obsessions: this salad, blackberries, and as much ice cream and sorbet as possible.

IMG_2213I picked up this great book from Food in Jars author (and you should too.) I’ve had a great time canning without sugar and experimenting with sealing the jars in my  steam oven. What a luxury it is to preserve in summertime without the big vat of boiling water!

And then this – an update to my favorite party platter. Summer style, of course, means showcasing raw vegetables and my new favorite condiment, gremolata. Look for the recipe in the next From Scratch column on the Kitsap Sun’s site.

 

Strawberry Season

It’s time for everything strawberries. We’ve been enjoying them from our own garden, picking enough for an evening snack or for breakfast. The Day Rd. farmstand is also already stocked with half flats for sale.  I always have mixed feelings about jamming all those lovely, whole berries, but I am certainly glad for them when December rolls around. I have also had a lot of success with vacuum sealing them for smoothies. First I trim the tops, wash, and lay out to dry on a towel – an easy procedure for wonderful, mid winter returns. Strawberry shortcake is a given. You can read about my favorite two ways here. So many possibilities! These are the two weeks of the year when we try to make all of our favorites.  IMG_0854

How about starting the morning with fresh strawberry scones? Or Pamela’s pancakes with sweetened homemade ricotta and halved berries?

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A lighter choice might be a spinach salad with an easy vinaigrette: 2 parts vinegar to 1 part oil and a pinch of salt. (I chose a raspberry balsamic vinegar and walnut oil)

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And any day now, fingers crossed, they’ll be enough abundance to make our favorite raspberry strawberry jam.

Kitchen Love

We have a new kitchen to get to know and, now that we’re settled into it, are having a lot of fun playing with new things and cooking up old favorites. Here are a few recipes that we’ve been loving lately.FullSizeRender (25)

  • There is no better way to test out a new oven than watching pita bread puff up. I make this recipe with all whole wheat flour.
  • My new favorite trick for breakfast, lunch boxes, and on the go meals is this omelet. Even the t-ball team loved it. (Whew, kids are sometimes the hardest critics.)
  • Steam! Oh, be still my heart. I have a new toy. I’ve been learning how to cook in a steam oven. I’m loading it with fish, rice, and veggies in it,  and instantly making a ridiculously easy and fresh meal. The biggest surprise is that now I can make oatmeal at the push of a button with no pan to clean. I have used this ratio with success: 2 cups water, 1 cup steel cut oats, 1 tbls. buttermilk. Mix it all up in a metal cake pan. Put it in the steam oven the night before. Program it to be done when you wake, cooking for 20 minutes at 212. I have also made yogurt and can’t wait to can and dehydrate in this one stop gadget.
  • I’m not going to lie, there’s been a fair amount of homemade ice cream to get through the busy days. But, there’s also been this healthier, quick smoothie.
  • Still making pizza with this recipe often. These days, when there are kids around, they get topped any old way.FullSizeRender (26)65
  • How did I miss the avocado toast craze? Where have I been? I’m now working to make up for lost time with this stand by.
  • And some days, you just have to treat yourself and let someone else make the coffee. Thanks, Hitchcock Deli. Wow. Just wow.Attachment-1

What’s happening in your kitchen? Hope it’s full of spring goodness and the promise of (fruitful!) summer days.

Baked Big Beans and Greens

Beans and greensOur Farmers’ Market opens this weekend. This, for our family, marks the true beginning of spring and brings new hope for dinner. So, for one last time this winter, I bring you a kale and cabbage recipe. Soon, soon we will have new veggies in our basket and in our bellies!

This recipe is not flashy or interesting, but what winter food really is? It’s a simple meal for a regular evening and makes use of the herbs that overwintered and the last of our winter veg. I cooked it ahead of time and reheated it for a fast dinner. I actually made it even easier by cooking the greens the night before. I doubled the amount of greens, pulled out half of them after five minutes in the pan, cooled them, and refrigerated them for use in the recipe below. (The rest of the greens, I seasoned and continued to cook for the first night’s meal.)

Baked Big Beans and Greens

Serves 4Dried beans

The night before:
1 cup dried, large beans

To cook the veg:
1 tbls. olive oil
1/4 onion
1/2 of a medium cabbage
about a dozen kale leaves

In a large casserole or Dutch oven:
5 cups of water
1 tbls. olive oil
2 Parmesan rinds
2 parsley sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

four slices wheat bread brushed with olive oil on both sides

  1. Soak your dried beans in water in a large bowl overnight or for at least 8 eight hours. At the end of this time, drain and rinse.
  2. Chop onion into a small dice. Separate cabbage leaves, rinse, and cut into large ribbons. Take the stems off the kale and also cut into large ribbons.cabbage
  3. Saute onion with olive oil for five minutes over medium. Add kale and cabbage and continue to saute for a brief five minutes more.
  4. Boil 5 cups of water.
  5. Tie herbs, rinds, and garlic in a little cheesecloth parcel. (Alternatively, tie your herbs together and remember to fish out the garlic cloves and rinds before serving.)
  6. In a large casserole or Dutch oven, add the hot water to the cooked vegetables and the soaked beans. Add in the rinds, garlic, herbs, and seasonings. Stir.all together now
  7. Bake at 325F for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. (Taste the beans for doneness after 2 hours.)
  8. When ready to eat, heat a large pan over medium. Brush slices of bread with oil. Toast in the pan on both sides until almost charred. With a slotted spoon, spoon greens and beans over toast.
  • Yes, of course, this would be better with bacon sprinkled over the top. But then it wouldn’t be vegetarian, would it? The Parmesan rinds add the flavor to the broth in the manner that pork traditionally would.
  • Alternatively, serve over pasta or a large grain like triticale.

Lunchbox Lentil and Potato Salad

lentil lunchboxThe peekaboo sunshine and the birds rallying in the plum tree seem to be telling us that spring is coming quickly. My stash of storage potatoes in the basement begs to differ. For some reason, this season, we’ve been slow to use up our potatoes and have to get on it! Potato soup? Pirogi time? Maybe invite over a crowd and feed them all gratin? Some of our potatoes, gratefully ordered from Laughing Crow Farm at the beginning of the winter, are beginning to sprout. I just cut that part off and proceed as normal, no problem. If I’m cooking up something that I’d like to become brown and crispy, I rinse the prepared potatoes under warm water and dry on a towel. (This removes a little extra starch.)

This dish provides some protein in your lunchbox by combining lentils, herbs, and potatoes in a simple salad that serves well at room temperature. Miraculously, we still have fresh parsley growing on our deck garden. It’s been so fun to have over the winter. (Thanks, Tani Creek seeds!)

Lunchbox Lentil and Potato Salad

About 4-6 lunches, depending on portion size

1 cup green French lentils
4-5 medium potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
half of one onion
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped finely
2 tbls. olive oil
2 tbls. sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
4 strips bacon, cooked (optional)

  1. Fill a medium pot and bring to a boil on high.
  2. Wash, peel, and cut the potatoes, removing eyes or any sprouts. Cube into about 1 inch pieces. Boil for 20 minutes in salted water. Drain the potatoes and set aside in a bowl big enough to hold the potatoes and a little extra.
  3. Rinse lentils and add to about 3 cups of water. Add half of an onion, one clove of garlic, and one bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes. Drain. Discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Add the lentils to the potatoes
  4. In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, sparsely, salt, and pepper to make a dressing.
  5. Pour this dressing over the potatoes and lentils. Crumble in bacon.
  6. Enjoy warm or cold!