It’s How You Play

You aren’t even reading this. You’re skipping right down to see if you won, aren’t you. Bad girl. Don’t you know, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game?

You all played your hearts out. Many a sad story was told. Many a project promised. One shameless reader posted a second comment to see if she could up her odds by pleading 50 pounds of frozen plums and eight months pregnant.


And yes, Anisa, I’ll bite. I do love me a shameless dame. You win.

The other 9 winners are: Kylie, Terri, Heather, Amanda, Inner Pickle, Jill, Holli, Kelsey and Jenn. Email me your addresses, ladies. scarletfevir (at) yahoo (dot) com

For the rest of you. Harriet gave out a whopping ten dvds. Can her commitment to the Hallows of Preserving be questioned? Go buy her damn video already. It’s only $35.

And here is a link to an old pesto making post. To get your juices flowing. Pesto is a great beginner project, it stores beautifully in the freezer, no canning involved. Like the fridge pickles, nothing whatsoever to worry about. Except using it up! I will admit to you that the massive pesto expedition described ended somewhat anti-climactically with an overly strong tasting pesto, because the basil was past it’s prime (fully flowering). I’ve used it up slowly, but I do believe there’s still one jar left in the freezer.

Not remotely incidental to the subject of preserving is the subject of failure. Read up on that post too, before you get into the kitchen. Not to intimidate you, on the contrary. Let the reality of failure embolden you! Yes, you will fuck up at some point. Better get on with it, so you can discover how and when.

And if you really want to waste some time, err, learn more by video, search youT*be for Sandor Katz. I know there’s at least one saurkraut how-to on there.

Now, let’s get hot in the kitchen.

Review: Preserving with Friends

I got my first promo item in the mail a month ago, for review. I felt pretty big. Harriet Fasenfest, author of The Householder’s Guide to the Universe, and my ethernet mother-in-spirit, sent me her DVD called Preserving with Friends: An easy step-by-step instructional guide to putting up the harvest. She had hoped that I might watch it and review here.

First of all, I told her honestly, I don’t much promote buying stuff. That’s what this is all about right? Preserving is mostly straight forward– a book from the library, a few recipes from a reputable source, or an afternoon with a friend should set you in the right direction. But then again, I’ve been doing it for 12 years. I’ve forgotten the intimidation of Beginning, and maybe some of you don’t have a friend to show you the ropes. Many people learn much easier from watching than reading. Maybe a DVD is just the thing for anyone out there who wants to get in on all the hip preserving fun, but feels shy to it.

Time is precious ’round these parts. Preserving with Friends is an exhaustive 3 1/2 hours (as well it should be, it covers the classic jam-making and canning fruits and tomatoes, and then goes into making pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha, as well as pressure canning vegetables, drying, freezing, and root cellaring. Phew. That oughta do it!) I watched the first 40 minutes, then I will admit to skipping ahead to see Sandor Katz, whom I have a massive crush on. So I can’t give you the full report, but the parts I watched were excellent. The explanations of each step were extremely clear and thorough. There were a few subtle wisecracks thrown in to keep you on your toes, but none of the mindless banter and fluff anecdotes that can plague instructional videos. It’s concise and focused.

It’s hard for me to speak to how well it explains things, since I am hardly a beginner and most of what I saw was very familiar.

So here’s the deal. We need you. You novices out there. Anyone who would love to have a little visual boost of confidence in the preserving kitchen, leave a comment here. As usual, I will not be following the regular blogging rules, this is not a standard giveaway. I might pick a winner randomly if you all sound eligible, or I might exersize my Blogstress power and pick the person I feel most needs and deserves it– so tell me your story. And then, don’t think you are getting something for nothing! When you have watched the DVD, I want a short report back. You can email it to me, and I will post it here.

I’m not much for protocol, as you know. I’ve never done a giveaway before. I feel like I give quite a lot of myself, in my posts. How about y’all send me a good book, is how I figure it.

That said, I got this DVD for free, and I don’t really need it. Some one of you might really appreciate it, and furthermore give a more relevant review. It seems like a win all the way around.

Ready… Set… Convince me!

Anything But the Kitchen Sink

Okay, I’m done talking about cleaning. For now. Honest! I have lots of other interesting things to tell you. And I realize I’ve been text heavy lately, so let’s see some pictures, right?

Let’s start with my garden, which is a heap of righteous green glory. I can’t believe I am eating out of my garden in January, it’s divine. I have cabbages bigger than your head, a bit of broccoli left, snap peas barely surviving the frosts, salad greens if I could want to eat them, garlic and onions putting on heft (though not bulbing yet of course) and don’t forget collards, as always, pumping out the food in dark green form. If I had planned better, I could have had carrots, spinach, beets and chard right now too. It’s crazy. Winter is actually the favored growing season here, because the buggies are scarce. And it’s not like up north where a winter garden is just harvesting what grew in summer and fall. No, cold season crops really grow here in winter. In fact, my Lousiana planting guide says I can start planting my spring crop of all the above mentioned vegetables anytime, though I just can’t make myself do it quite yet. We have some very warm days, but still plenty of frigid days. I might plant a row or two when I head to the garden later today, but mostly I think I’ll wait another week. Then it’ll begin a whole new round of green yumminess.

Speaking of green, I feel compelled to tell you about my tomatoes. Before we left for our 3 week Christmas trip I called my Southern gardening guru to ask what I should do about my two huge healthy looking tomato plants, loaded with green fruit. It was really my first success with tomatoes down here, and I was heartbroken to be leaving them. I asked whether I could harvest the green tomatoes and leave them somewhere cool where they wouldn’t freeze in hopes that they would be ripening just as I got back. He said not so much, they’d ripen in a week or two and I’d come back to a rotting pile of gross. He said he’d just leave ’em in the ground and pray. Having no particular anybody to pray to, and vaguely remembering the one time I tried growing tomatoes in Cordova (under plastic, but they still didn’t ripen before the freeze), I decided to buck his advice. How just like me.

But guess what? It worked! I think he was imagining tomatoes on the verge, you know, when they start turning white-ish? But mine were solid green rocks. Also he was probably imagining them in a warm room, but I left them in my neighbors shed (with the instruction to eat any that ripened). The first batch was just ripening when we got back, and they are still slowly ripening. Granted, these are not flavorful vine-ripened fabulousness. They actually taste about like supermarket tomatoes (for the same reason). But hell, it was that or nothing. I did by the way, fry my share of green tomatoes and experimented with them in general cooking. Green tomato salad? Pretty darn tasty with a good garlicky vinegrette. Green tomatoes in gumbo? They blend right in, almost okra-ey, but without the slime. I have a batch of green tomato jam in progress, but honestly it doesn’t smell that promising.

What does smell good are the muffins I made this morning! Cinnamon Crumble, we’ll call them, though what they really are is leftover granola muffins. I’ve mentioned before that I keep a jar in the freezer where I deposit half finished bowls of soggy granola. With a 3YO around, there’s quite a few of those. I worked hard to make the granola, and it ain’t free either, what with all the organic nuts, oils and high quality sugar. When the jar gets full I make bread, pancakes or muffins. I’ve been working on the recipe and this morning’s was perfect. They’re not overly sweet, but the sugary crumble gives it an extra decadent punch without turning it into cake for breakfast. Unless you’re 3, and manage to peck all the crumble off half the pan of muffins before yer mama catches you. Grrrr…

Cinnamon Crumble Muffins (wink)

makes one dozen very tall muffins

  • 1 pint jar (2 cups) leftover granola and milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup oil (don’t be afraid of olive oil for baking btw, it works just fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup white all-purpose (plus 1/2 cup or more if necessary)
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder (I know this seems like a lot, but it wasn’t too much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup raisins (optional)

for the crumble topping

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oats

Butter your muffin tin generously. I never used to use butter to grease pans, but have since realized that it does a much better job than oil and makes a delicious crust to boot.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat all the wet ingredients together, whisk the dry ingredients together, then fold the dry into the wet. Add the extra 1/2 cup or more of white flour until you have a thick batter. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon like soft ice cream. Fill the muffin cups to the brim, and then even a teeny bit more. This recipe fit (barely) into my tin, which I think has 1/2 cup sized cups.

Dump all the crumble ingredient together in the empty batter bowl and mash/stir until thoroughly incorporated. Sprinkle onto muffins. It will seem like way too much, but keep trying to pack it on there. As the muffins bake and expand, the tops will suck up the crumble and it will be perfect! Pat the tops so that the crumble stays put. If you really can’t fit all the crumble on, save it in your freezer for your next batch o’ muffs.

Pop into the oven. After 10 or 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350. Starting at a high heat like this helps make your muffins nicely domed. Bake another- oh hell I don’t know, I never time ’em- 10 minutes? They’re done when the tops feel springy, stick a butter knife in if you’re not sure, there should be sticky crumbs but no batter clinging.

Cool on a wire rack, where the 3YO can’t reach if you want to have any crumble left for anyone else.

While you’re munching, how about a few book reviews? I’ve kept up with my Mornings are for Books concept, partly by allowing myself to buy books. I interlibrary loan some, but don’t hesitate much to buy ones I think I’ll want to keep.

I bought and read Harriet Fasenfest‘s The Householder’s Guide to the Universe in November. Great choice. It is a lovely synthesis of practical things such as gardening advice and recipes, with her very personal and honest account of becoming a householder. Just the sort of writing I most adore to read in the AM hours. The link takes you to some of her articles for Culinate, which is also otherwise a great local/groovy food site.

After that I gorged on Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Dorina Allen which I got for Christmas, much to my amazement. It’s not like I asked for it. I hadn’t even heard of this book, which is so very, very right up my alley. It is pure old timey food porn. So full of gorgeous photos that the book itself weighs almost five pounds. The link up there is actually to Amaz*n, so you can get the “peek inside.”



Now I’m on Living with Goats by Margaret Hathaway (link is to her blog). When we were up north at my in-laws, I met a woman who kept Nigerian Dwarf goats and it really amped my goaty fantasies. It was at their otherwise fairly awkward neighborhood Christmas party, I was politely chit-chatting with people I didn’t know, and a woman across the table said, “Oh, didn’t you come out to see my goats once?”

My ears perked, did she say goats? “Umm, no, you must be confusing me with my sister-in-law. I would definitely remember that, I love goats!”

All of a sudden, a whirlwind swept up around us, separating us from the babbling crowd. All the “oh and what do you do? mmm, hmm, how interesting” disappeared and her eyes locked mine, “You love goats?” she said already coming around the table toward me. Goat people are hilarious.

“Oh yeah!” I said, “Goats are great, smart and friendly, more like dogs than other farm animals. I really want to have a couple of milking Nigerian Dwarves when we go back to Alaska. But don’t tell my husband that!”

“I have Nigerians!” she said, elated. And that was it, the deal was made. We spent the next half an hour in impenetrable goat-talk, and made a date for a goat visit a few days later.

She had a small flock of something like 8 Nigerians. She wasn’t milking at the time, but she does the once-daily milking that I had read about on Fiasco Farm. I am very intrigued by that idea, especially since it doesn’t require taking babies away from mamas, something I’m not sure I have the hutzpah for, but also because once a day is a lot less time commitment, and do we really need all that much milk anyway? She also gave me courage about the goats as “browsers” idea which I kind of relied on in my goat fantasies. Hay would be very expensive as the sole feed in Cordova, no one around grows it, I’d have to ship it all in from the more pastoral parts of Alaska. But weeds and brush we have! In spades. (I have since read in a paper on goats as land clearers that said a goat’s natural diet is 82% “browse” and only 18% grass…)

Talking to her got me started on a heavy duty scheming streak. I have done a bunch of research since, and I’m pretty fired up. I decided it was time to buy myself a book.

Living with Goats is definitely a beginner book. Really I’d have to say it’s more of a schemer book. If you were really getting goats, you’d need something a lot more thorough. But since I am just scheming, it’s perfect. I do wish I had just interlibrary loaned it though, I don’t suspect I’ll need it for reference much.

Whew! I had more things I wanted to tell you, about non-sewing projects, and homemade antlers for Bambi-obsessed 3YOs, but it’ll all have to wait. I’ve got to get out to my garden before it’s too late!

Happy Saturday!