Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Happy Thanksgiving! Fair Winds and Good Food to you all . . .
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Well, this was not what I intended to write about this morning, but here goes: I have been spammed--by some bot--with comment spam on every post I have I ever written! So, though it is a pain, I have instituted a "comment verification" requirement. You know, those annoying distorted letters and numbers that you have to try several times to get right. I apologize profusely for this, but I needed to do it for my sanity. It is taking me hours to remove the spam manually, and if there's a faster way, I don't know it. I toyed with disallowing anonymous comments, but I have had a history of positive comments from people who are not yet signed up in some way that Blogger recognizes and I don't want to shut these people out. If the experienced bloggers among you have any suggestions, I will most gratefully check them out.
On a more positive note, as it moves into winter we are learning how snug and lovely our little floating cabin is. Of course, we have taken some measures to make it thus, from the warm and inviting furnishings and colors, to the new heaters, canvas and other weatherizing tricks that keep us literally warm. Fighting condensation is an ongoing battle, but we are learning and putting cures into place, albeit slowly. I do know that the worst is yet to come, but we have had temperatures in the low 30's, pouring rain, and--as of the other night night--gusts of wind up to 62mph (depending on where--that was at the marina. Power is still out in areas of the county . . .) There will be snow, more rain, slightly colder temps, but I think we are finding that we will be able to weather it all pretty well. Check back with me on all of this in March!
And the nicest experience of the last few days day: I found a bounty of rose hips! I have been noting places with hips (or haws, as some call them) all summer long, tasting as I went along. I think that it must have been amusing to watch me learn, because it has taken me these many months to find out when they are perfectly ripe. Various online sources told me to wait till they were black, or till they were kissed by frost, or when they were a certain color . . .but yesterday I just knew the ones I found were ripe by looking at them. They had a certain milky look, verging on translucency, and they squished between my fingers if I pulled too hard. My fingers got numb from the cold, which was a good thing as there were abundant thorns. Nevertheless, I happily picked about a quart. I will go back when there have been more frosts, as the hips most exposed to the sun were not ready yet.
Rose hips are a wonderful fall and winter food to forage--high in vitamin C and full of tart-sweet flavor, they are a perfect balance to the dense and rich foods we have started to eat as fortification against the nippy and damp weather. They help keep our immune systems in top form as we go into cold and flu season. And they are just lovely to look at.
This afternoon I processed the hips into an uncooked jam sweetened with honey. I used a recipe in Keeping Food Fresh as a jumping off point, tweaking it for my tastes. I ended up using half the honey and adding flavor several ways. To a pint of the strained pulp, I added one cup of honey, a few tablespoons of bourbon, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a few drops of organic lemon flavoring (which is simply lemon oil).
Here you can see the hips being sorted after rinsing. Since I was using a food mill I decided not to be fussy about the stems and sepals--they are all strained out by the mill. But that job was more than the "tedious" I has read in various places. Turning the mill was hard work at first--it is a thick mass--and it took quite a while to get a decent amount of pulp. But it got easier, and I think I might have gotten as much yield as can be expected.
This is the pulp and the seeds after separating. I think I will try to simmer the seeds with a bit of water and see if I can get some more when I strain it through a sieve. I see that Becca over at Swamp Yankees From Outer Space tried this successfully.
And this is the finished product, so thick because of the natural pectin in rosehips. I think it actually got thicker as I stirred, and I could have used cider as part of the sweetener to loosen it up some (thanks Joy, for that idea!) I'll have to try it with the next batch.
Funny thing, all of that backlighting in the last shot, because it has been raining (and grey, of course) for days. No matter, now that I know what to do with these little rubies, I am eagerly anticipating more frosty mornings, more grey days. And more time in the galley creating yummy treats that happen to be incredibly nutrient dense . . . . I have yet to live through a full year here, but I can already tell you that the seasonal changes are sustaining--when the current weather or vegetable or lack of light gets to be too much, all we need is a reminder of the next short-lived pleasure to keep going. Rose hips can give us a glimmer of the flowers to come next Spring, while they get us out into the nippy Autumn air. A perfect combination of exercise, sustenance, and the rhythm of the season. All real, no Spam. Maybe a bit of wind. Thank goodness for small pleasures . . .
Friday, November 13, 2009
Even though I feel we are living in the land of plenty (by which I mean Clallam County specifically, not the USA as a whole) the issues in this article are pertinent even here. We have a wonderful local dairy, many viable produce farms, and local meat and fish.
But don't have local cream and butter, due to the vagaries of regulation that would make our dairy farmer a food processor if he had a cream separator, which would make him subject to all sorts of onerous requirements. He would have to pave the parking lot of his small on-farm store, have handicapped parking, have public restrooms. And that's just the beginning.
The fact that farmers can't slaughter the animals they raise means that custom butchers have to do the job, raising the price of the meat and giving the farmers less control. They don't even get all of the parts of their animals back, and who really knows if they are getting their own well-raised beasts back at all? After investing so much time and energy into pasturing animals the way they were meant to be raised, does it seem right to send them off to some other place in the end?
If we don't have local processing, we don't really have a local foodshed. We add transportation costs, the labor of outside processors, possible contamination, and all sorts of other complications. We have to take control back from the conglomerates--who created the rules that are keeping our local farmers from serving us directly. The rules may have been put into place in the name of efficiency and safety, but the reality is that they only serve the interests of huge agribusiness.
Buy local, and insist loudly that it be TRULY local, made and processed close to home. Know your farmer!