Friday, July 23, 2010

Jam with Gram Goes Well with Shelle

There was a day in the summer time, maybe not every summer, but a lot of summers, when Gram, Grape Gram, and Mom would be in the kitchen canning. Pickle day was my favorite the smell of dill permeated the entire neighborhood. Pears, peaches, fruit cocktail, cherries (the pitter the most awesome of tools that attached to the counter spitting pit pit pit). And then... there were the days of jam. Val has been helping with the making the plum jam for years. Her boss has an apricot tree (insert popcorn song). Thus my sister had a five gallon bucket of apricots in her foyer. I called my Gram, said hey lets make jam, and she said come on over.

Here's how you make jam. You read the box of pectin. It has the recipe.

Here's how Shelle and I made apricot jam this week 34 8 oz jars in 4 hours.

Day 1: I went to Harmons. Bought: Sugar, Jars, Pectin ($15.00)
The jars must be washed and sterilized in the dishwasher. The 35 year old push and plug into the sink that still works like a charm began its cycle. Meanwhile, the apricots were "screwed up". I thought I would grab a knife and start cutting them to pit them, silly child, just use your thumb and push them in half and pop out the pit. Screwing up a fruit (ha) means that you put it in the blender. The 35 year old blender that still works like a charm (but you have to kind of shake it to turn it on). My Aunt Shelle was quite the expert but you really need 4 arms for this process to work. So you but the screwed up fruit into the pan. Not any old pan, a really old pan. It can't have any fancy coating or it will taste different. It has to be the 45 year old pan that has lost its handles from making a roast every sunday for 45 years. No handles. Really. So the apricot sludge heats up and you stir in the pectin and the sugar, lemon juice, and a little butter. 7 CUPS of sugar!

Ok OUCH! The apricot lava starts spurtting out of the pan... A full rolling boil of lava for a minute, 60 seconds, with aggressive stirring. Ouch OUch OUCH!!! Then the cruel slop is funnelled into sterilized jars, topped with a lid that has been simmered in water for a while, then screwed lid, then flipped upside down. My job was the lids and the flipping while Shelle did the pouring and funneling and jar getting (4 arms minimum requried). After about 5 minutes, flip the jars upright and listen for the pop. This indicates a tight seal. Now take a break and talk to Shelle about her Racoon chasing escapades with a trapper named Travis and listen to Gram explain what you should do precisely with your left hook, and the tale of her train ride from California to Wyoming with an 18 month old and a 8 month old by herself Then clean the unhandled perfect pan for jam and repeat. This batch we did a little smoother, but it was still evil lava.

DAY 2!!! Harmons again, more jars, more sugar, more pectin. ($11). Now that we were trained and the apricots were already screwed up, Shelle and I worked like riveters and finished two more batches, this time wth 4.5 cups of sugar. We used a longer wooden spoon for the stirring so less injuries and I wore an apron, plus we wiped up spills as we went so the lava wouldn't attach itself to the stove like igneous rock making clean up more intense. Proud as punch, the jars are filled, the racoons still need to be caught, and Val must come to do the plums when the plum tree makes fruit ready to be screwed up!

For one batch

Sterilize 8 jars with lids
6 pints of fruit pitted and finely chopped
Box of pectin (Sure Jell)
4.5 cups sugar
1/8 cup lemon juice
Butter to reduce foaming
1 Apron
Long handled wooden spoon
Non Tefloned pot (with or without handles)
An Aunt
A Grandma

Then, follow the instructions from the box.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pork Chops, peaches, cous cous and cauliflower

The pork chop brine was almost perfect: 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp oil, 1/4 cup water, 2 tbsp olive oil, two cloves of garlic thinly sliced. Next time, I'd use a little more sugar and a little less salt but not too much. I grilled the pork chops for 5 minutes a side along with two halved peaches. After I turned the pork chops the first time, I rubbed the up side with sage from the herb garden. Done!

Cous cous--In a bowl, I put 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tbsp chopped basil from herb garden. I tossed two cups of cooked cous cous into the bowl where Zoe stirred in 1/2 cup parm. So good.

Roasted cauliflower--I parboiled the cauliflower for two minutes and then into a gratin dish I tossed chopped black olives, feta, olive oil, butter and pepper. I forgot the olive oil but it was still good. Zoe kept asking for more parmasan by which she meant feta. She liked everything except for the cooked peach. Go figure. She loves the peaches raw.

Easyish dinner. Pretty fancy.

Monday, July 12, 2010


OK. I found the pork belly of my dreams. $5 at the farmer's market, massaged, locally grown pig. But I forgot to look at recipes until today. Today is really my only day until Saturday to cook. So I'm hoping to braise this puppy quickly to make tacos at Val's.
I seared the belly and then added (All portions are given in the reasonable amounts):
Chile powder
red wine vinegar
orange juice
I'm still looking around the house for cumin. Eh. Cumin. Whatever.
If it doesn't braise long enough to make it delicious taco filling, I'll take it to Val's and leave it in her fridge. We'll add more salt and slice it and call it Utah pancetta or, even better, cold smoke it and make Utah bacon.
Updates soon.