Monday, September 27, 2010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation...

There is just something wonderful about summer vacation…especially, I believe, the ones that are at the end of the summer. Maybe it’s a holdover from when we were kids, hanging out, goofing around, wearing your favorite casual clothes - usually sans shoes, doing pretty much what you want…and when it’s all over and we are all refreshed, it’s suddenly fall and a ‘new year’ is ready to start up again. Apparently Cesar was on a different school schedule when he decided that the new year should start in January, I believe most of us who spent at least the first 18 years of our lives in school feel like the new year starts in September…

For our summer vacations we once again traveled to the top of California and visited a cabin that sits right on the Smith River, just inland from Crescent City…it’s absolutely idyllic! The house is off the grid and is ‘powered’ by solar panels which somehow always seems to make me feel a little more connected to the earth, which is a good thing after a hectic year…it also eliminates TV, computers and other nonessentials and cell phones don’t get a signal. Your whole body just does a big exhale once you get settled in.
The weather was wonderful, warm in the day, cool - sweatshirt weather - at night. We had friends stay with us for the first few days and then my husband and I chilled by ourselves for the remainder of the week. We swam in the beautiful clear river, wetsuits preferable; we hiked on a historic mule trail that was built by Chinese workers to facilitate transport of gold from mines to San Francisco Bay during the gold rush; we read books and played cards; we stayed up late and slept in late; we
picked blackberries and canned blackberry jam; we even went down to the harbor in Crescent City and purchased fresh caught tuna from one of the commercial fishermen and brought it home to can for the upcoming year. All in all it was a pretty perfect vacation!
Now we are back at home and back at work. The days are getting shorter and fall is in the air. Feels like we are ready to start that new year!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

So What About That Peach Canning Class?!

Okay, so it was several weeks ago that I let everyone know I was teaching a class about canning peaches…little slow on the uptake here, but I thought you all might like to hear how it went…’peachy’ - sorry that was too good to pass up! It was a lovely Saturday afternoon, not too hot, which is always a canning concern. I mean what’s up with most of the years canning taking place during the hottest months of the year. I think it’s
a test. If you can survive a 4 thousand degree kitchen, while racing around cramming bits of produce into small jars - you too can call yourself a canner…anyway, as is my usual M.O. I did my test canning at home so that I had the time schedule down pat as well as making sure the recipes I had dreamed up would be pleasing to the class. All went well on that front. This time I decided on plain canned peaches in light syrup. I figured that would give folks a good basis for other stone fruits, in case they had a nectarine tree or perhaps plums and the tree went berserk and all the fruit ripened at one, which has been my experience or they just wanted to enjoy some fruit sometime in the winter . We did a simple 6 part water to 1 part sugar syrup, filled the jars with peaches and syrup and processed them for 30 minutes. Pretty straight forward    everyone’s jar came out beautifully…
Next up was a peach chutney. I like to think that having one easy and one interesting item on the cooking agenda makes for a class that will hold everyone’s interest…or maybe I just subscribe to that ‘teaser’ mentality sort of like the big news shows…’peach chutney - details to follow’… the chutney is very tasty and works well with chicken or pork…it is also a nice add to soft cheeses like brie or chevre as an appetizer.
Peach Chutney

2 Qts. (aprox 15 med.) - Peaches, finely chopped

1 ½ Cups – Brown Sugar

½ Cup Golden Raisins

½ Cup Onion Chopped

1/8 Cup Mustard Seed

1 TBS. Ginger

1 Clove Garlic minced

1tsp. – Salt

8-10 Cardamom Seeds

2 ½ Cups – White Wine Vinegar

1. Cut a small ‘x’ on the bottom of each peach, drop peaches into boiling water for 1 minute, then into ice water

2. Peel, cut peaches in half and remove pit, finely chop pitted peaches

3. Put all ingredients in a large sauce pan.

4. Bring to a simmer

5. Simmer until thickened, aprox. 30 minutes – Stir frequently to prevent sticking

6. Put water in other two pots and bring to a boil while peaches are cooking

7. Put lids in small pot to heat

8. Put jars in canning pot

9. Remove glass jars from pot

10. Fill jars with hot chutney, leaving ¼” head space

11. Remove air bubbles

12. Wipe edge of can with clean damp towel

13. With tongs put 1 lid on jar and finger tighten ring on jar

14. Put jars into canning pot

15. When water is boiling again, process ½ pint jars for 10 minutes

16. Remove from pot, cool

We all managed to get our jars filled and processed and the class wrapped up in it’s allotted 2 hours. We had a great time and there are a few new canning converts in the central valley. Next class - apples…