Caper

Our sage plant survived the winter. Our sage plant survived the winter, got going on its plans for world domination early in the spring, and is now the size of a small trashcan.

It’s also doing that thing where it makes flowers way way way too early in the season (once it starts making flowers, it spends less time making leaves, and it’s there for me to eat its leaves, so that’s not ideal).  So I have done a bud massacre.

And now it’s time to do something with the buds.  Working on the theory that capers are pickled (or brined) flower buds, and secure in the knowledge that I am perfectly capable of pickling (or brining) things, I have decided to make sage capers (or pickled sage buds if you wanna be all technical about it, but I think sage capers sounds much funnier, especially if you use the alternate meanings of each of the words).

I’m doing something between this and this.  I’m quite aware it could all go horribly wrong.  But I have a long history of letting stuff ferment on my kitchen counter and then enjoying the results, so I’m willing to give it a try.  So far, it smells amazing.

Departures

We made herb salt this week.  If you’ve been around for a while (and if you pay alarmingly close attention to the nonsense I get up to), you may be thinking it’s a bit early for such a thing.  And this is totally true…we usually wait until October or even November for this project.

But this year?  This year that’s not an option. We’re moving this week (the movers come Friday), and if we wanted to have a batch this year, this was the moment.

We’ve finally managed to pull off that move to Maine we’ve been working on (we’ve been going on vacation since 2012…it seemed more efficient to just give in and move there).  So I’m going to be a little bit quiet for a few days while we get everything all sorted out…but in a week or so I should be all settled in at the new place and back to a more normal schedule (with lots of shiny new backdrops for knitting pictures)!

Sunshine

So I don’t know about you, but where we are, it’s winter and gray and gloomy.  And while normally I can deal with that this fine, somehow this year it’s wearing on me.  The obvious cure is sunshine.  And this is about as close as I can get to sunshine in a jar.

We’ve talked before about how to do this.  The gist is chop up your citrus (I’ve gotten much more casual about leaving the seeds in and the tips on over time, but you can totally remove them if you’re so inclined).

Jam them in jars, dumping in piles of salt after each layer.  Top the jar up with extra lemon juice.

Wait a month. Eat with everything (soup, hummus, cookies, everything…really).

But this year we decided to do a little something different.  We added a few blood oranges to the usual meyer lemons.

Now I’ve never done this before, but the internet assures me it is totally a thing (it apparently works for limes too, which I’m going to try next time).

We also packed one of the lemon jars with a whack ton of whole spices, just to see if we can taste them.  I’ll report back and let you know.

But in the meantime, if you’ve had Just About Enough of January Thank You Very Much, I highly recommend putting down a jar or two of these.  It helps. A lot.

Timely

Sometimes? Sometimes you have good timing.  On Saturday, we grabbed the last of the herbs from the yard.  Normally we do it earlier, but this year we kept putting it off.

DSC_2941 copyWe spent an hour or two stripping herbs, peeling garlic, and putting the food processor to work.

DSC_2947 copyAnd later that very afternoon, we got the first snow of the season.  I’m calling that just about the best timing ever.

This has become a yearly tradition (I talked about it in more detail back here if you want to do it yourself, and there’s a bit more about other years here and here).  It comes out great every time.  We use it in pretty much everything we cook.  And I’m really quite firmly convinced you should be doing something similar with any spare herbs you have sitting around.

Not just rhubarb

The shrub thing really is a sickness around these parts.  I did rhubarb and strawberry just a little while ago, and now I’ve got some cherry going as well.  This really is ten minutes of chopping, two minutes of stirring with the sugar, 30 seconds of glugging in the cider vinegar, and two weeks of waiting followed by an entire summer and fall of sipping on delicious things.

I’m not sure why we’re not all doing it all the time.  It really is the best thing to do with all that extra fruit you find yourself with all summer long. cherry shrub

cherry shrub

cherry shrub   cherry shrub

Tiny bubbles

So it’s summer, which means I can’t go to the grocery store without bringing home more fruit than any two people can eat.  And when you have a whole bunch of extra fruit (and you’ve made your fill of pies, because really there has to be some limit), clearly the thing to do is make shrub.

Now we talked about this at some length before, and you can go read that if you want.

For now I’ll just say it starts with sugar + rhubarb.

DSC_0062 copyAn hour later you’ve got this.

DSC_0067 copyAnd an hour after that you’ve got this.

DSC_0071 copyA day or two later, you pour in some apple cider vinegar (the kind you let ferment on your counter if at all possible), cover it, and wait for the little yeasties and microbes to work their magic.  In a week it will be good.  In a month it will be amazing.

And yes, it will bubble and fizz.  Yes it will make funny smells.  Yes I suppose it could go horribly wrong and kill you, so do your reading if you want to try it.  I’m totally not a reputable source.  But it hasn’t killed us yet, and oh wow is it good.

Salty

The making of a giant batch of herb salt has turned into a yearly event.  We first did it (complete with something resembling instructions) back here.  And we did it again just about this time last year.  And this week we did it yet again.

herb saltWe use this salt in everything we cook (well…everything except sweets, because that would be odd) and more or less wouldn’t want to cook without it.  You absolutely need to make some of your own.

And this year?  This year we learned something very very important.  You can totally use the food processor instead of a knife, and your salt doesn’t turn to paste.  That turns this from a three hour project to a one hour project and makes it way way way less tedious.  It’s still a bit of work (shucking that much garlic is a pain no matter what, so is stripping that many herbs off their stems), but absolutely worth it.  And my house smells awfully good too.

 

Seasons

So it seems my domestic urges are tied to the calendar.  In the dead of winter, I preserve lemons.  In the middle of summer, I make herb salts and syrups.  Once it’s properly cold, it’s hot chocolate paste.  And when fall starts to set it, it’s shrubs.

fig shrubI went to the grocery store, found figs on sale for some ridiculously good price, bought pounds and pounds of them, and made a huge batch.

fig shrub 2It’s percolating on the counter right now, all bubbles and good smells.

fig shrub 3And before you ask, yes, it does seem ever so slightly gross to think about (but in pretty much exactly the same way beer or yogurt or cheese is a bit gross to think about).  No, I’m not worried it will kill me.  No, I can’t promise it won’t kill you.  Yes, it is awfully delicious (and it only gets better in the fridge over time).

I was going to write it all up in detail, but then I realized I’d already done all that earlier (there are three posts, click through if you want them all).  So instead I’ll have a drink (with an earlier batch of shrub), and wait patiently for this one to work its magic.  Lay a batch down now, and in a month or two, you can do the same!

Fig Syrup

The grocery store had fresh figs.  The grocery store very rarely has fresh figs (they seem to have a shelf life of about 47 seconds, so I understand), so I felt I had to take advantage.  Of course, there is a limit to how many you can just eat out of the bag, but you really can’t let the others go to waste.  So I made fig syrup.  Fig, rosemary, pepper simple syrup to be precise.

syrup 1I used two figs, four biggish sprigs of fresh rosemary, and two tablespoons of peppercorns, plus one mason jar of white sugar and the same amount of water.  (When I’m making syrup, I just use whatever container I want to store it in to scoop out the sugar and measure out the water…perhaps inelegant, but it works. In this case it’s a one pint mason jar.)

syrup 2Slice the figs, tear up the rosemary, and give the peppercorns a bit of a pound to crack them a little.  Dump it all (including the sugar and water) in a pan and boil.  I take a fairly unorthodox approach to my syrups and boil them for a longish time (10 minutes or so).  It reduces the syrup a bit and gives it a nice caramel flavor.  Just don’t walk away, because it does sometimes foam up.

syrup 3Kill the heat and let it stand for an hour or two (both to cool off and to let the flavor get a bit stronger).  Strain it into a jar (this is the hardest part, I used a tea strainer, but a fine mesh sieve would work too).  Taking a moment to bask in the pretty color and possibly nibble on the stray rosemary needle is optional but encouraged.  It will keep in the fridge for weeks and the freezer for months, though I don’t imagine it lasting that long.

As for what to do with it?  Well, I’ll go into that more some other time, but I recommend drinks.  Fizzy, frothy, happy drinks.

 

Loopy

Yes, yes I am still making the trivet.  Yes, I am having more fun than anyone should be able to have with some felt and some string.  No, I don’t expect anyone else to understand the appeal.  But I’m fairly sure you’re all an obliging lot and won’t begrudge me my odd obsessions.

DSC_0829I started by cutting out three equally-sized rectangles (size determined by setting the teapot on various books until one looked right, and then tracing around that book).  Then I held them together with a few pins and started stitching.  There was no particular plan for the stitching, I just wanted swoops.  Closed swoops.

DSC_0824I’m going to keep going, until most of the fabric is filled with swoops.  Then there may or may not be some snipping away of the top layer of felt inside the swoops to make little holes and let the yellow middle layer show through.  I’m not sure yet.  And really, its goal in life is to keep my teapot from marring my table, so it’s allowed to be somewhat…freeform.

I have, however, discovered that I can work on this for just about precisely 15 minutes before my hand starts to cramp up (erm, and what you see there is two of those 15 minutes stretches of stitching), so it will be a few more days before I have to make any decisions.