Monday, August 22, 2011

Peach Chutney and the Joy of Barter

    One of my barter deals literally came to fruition this past week although a lot of vegetables were also involved.  A few days ago I took delivery of two boxes of Roma tomatoes, one box of Marigold apples ( a new variety to me), one box of peaches, 50 head of cabbage, 25 pounds of beets, and three boxes of pickling cucumbers.  That represented about a third of this particular barter deal. The major technical difficulties are the fact that a lot of stuff comes at the same time and that time is rarely convenient.  Needless to say I'm in quite a pickle.  We made a double batch of bread and butter pickles on Saturday and only used about a third of one box of cucumbers. I don't need a crystal ball to see a lot of pickles in my future.

     Since the peaches are no doubt the most perishable item on hand, it seemed wise to use them first. I made a triple batch of peach chutney tonight.  I had made some last year and it was fairly popular.  I found the recipe in "Stocking Up" by Carol Stoner, published by Rodale Press. I consider it to be the ultimate food preservation book and I refer to it frequently. The recipe is a little spicy, possibly the equivalent of medium salsa. It isn't super hot but people who don't care for spicy food might find it too hot for their taste. The recipe is as follows:

   1 1/2 cups of diced onions                     1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard
   1 garlic clove, minced                             1/4 teaspoon cardamom
   2 tablespoons of oil                                1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
   1 1/2 tespoon of tumeric                         1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves
   1 1/2 teaspoon of coriander                    3/4 cup of wine vinegar
   1 teaspoon of cumin                               1/4 cup of water
   1/2 teaspoon of ginger                            1/2 cup of honey
   1/2 teaspoon of cayenne                         2 pounds of peaches, sliced
   1/4 teaspoon of black pepper 
    Saute onions and garlic in oil, adding spices as they cook.  Add vinegar, water, and honey. Simmer about ten minutes.  Add peaches and simmer until they are tender. While still hot, pour into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Adjust lids and process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.  Yield is 2 pints.

    I didn't follow the recipe exactly.  I didn't have cardamom so I substituted cinnamon. I left out the coriander only because I didn't have any on hand. Its sufficiently spiced that one less spice was probably not real noticeable. I did use honey, although as a rule I don't like to use honey in canning where it will be heated significantly.  I tripled the recipe and ended up with almost 8 pints.  I probably used an extra amount of peaches as I didn't bother to weigh them.  The only thing difficult was dealing with cling peaches but we have to work with what we have sometimes.. The box of peaches is now down to a reasonable number for Linda and I to eat fresh.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Salmon Fishing on the Snohomish

   Yesterday, August 17, was the second day that the Snohomish River had been open for salmon fishing.  I wasn't able to go fishing on the opening day because I had to work at the bee store.  Since I own the bee store calling in sick wasn't an option. Fortunately, I have an employee so Quentin manned the store while I got to go fishing.

   The Snohomish river has very strong run of pink salmon, also called humpies, in odd years.  For some strange reason the river has a lighter run of pinks in even years.  About two million pinks run up the river in an odd numbered year while we have a mere 700,000 fish in an even numbered year. I don't know how long it has been that way.  You would think that over time the two runs would even out.  In an odd year the daily catch limit for pinks is four fish. In an even year, if you are allowed to fish for the pink salmon, the daily catch limit is usually just one fish. As you can imagine the fishing pressure is much less in the even years while the river is filled with fisherman in the odd years.  These are all native fish as there is no hatchery for pink salmon.

    I'm very fortunate in that I have several good friends who love to fish and have a boat. I met both of these friends through the bee store so they are both bee buddies as well as fishing buddies. Prior to my retirement and purchase of the Beez Neez Apiary Supply I was usually one of the poor souls fishing on the bank.  I caught some fish, but I never did as well as I did fishing from a boat.  So yesterday I spent the entire day on the Snohomish River fishing for salmon with my bee buddy Steve and new friend named John. Steve is the guy driving the boat while John is the guy holding up the six pound male pink salmon.  The female pink salmon on the lawn is the one salmon I caught. It is relatively early in the run so there aren't as many fish as there will be in another week.  John caught his limit while Steve and I each caught just one fish.  Both of us had several other fish on that we failed to land.  It was still a wonderful day on the river with good company.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eleven Pies and a Wedding

    Mike and Tina's Wedding took place this afternoon (Saturday, August 13).  The wedding itself was very nice.  Bishop Putnam performed the ceremony and gave them sage advice about the difficult task of blending two families. It was a joyful, happy occasion and caused me to ponder just how much life can change over the course of a year.

    I was involved in a pie baking marathon the past few days in preparation for the wedding. I had committed to making 8 fruit pies for the wedding.  I made five pies on Friday and another four on Saturday morning. My daughter Rachel also brought up two apple peach pies from Portland and assisted me with the pies we made on Saturday. We ended up with a total of four cherry, three blueberry, two apple, and two apple peach.  Sherry Green made some wonderful cream pies as well so it was a veritable pie heaven. It still would have been a very nice wedding even without the pies.

   My wife was so impressed with some pies that Rachel had made a few weeks ago that she has been encouraging me to try out Rachel's pie crust recipe.  As it turns out, her recipe comes from Chef Emeril Lagasse on the internet. I wasn't unhappy with my recipe from the Mormon Family Cookbook but since we were making so many pies it seemed a good time to experiment.  My old pie crust recipe consisted of 2 1/4 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 3/4 cup of shortening, and 1/3 cup of water.  Emeril's recipe consisted of 3 1/4 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 cup of cold butter, 2/3 cup of cold lard, and 4-5 tablespoons of water. I only used about 1/2 teaspoon of salt in either recipe.  I thought that both recipes made a nice pie crust, but Emeril's pie crust was a little easier to work and sure smelled better when the pie was in the oven. It's hard to beat cooking with real butter.

   We carved some appropriate messages in the pie crust, including some quotes from the "Princess Bride".  Rachel always bastes her pie crust with egg white. She says it makes the messages stand out better.  I really enjoyed the pie baking marathon. I always enjoy cooking with Rachel. She is such good company in the kitchen and I always seem to learn some new trick or technique from her. I also really enjoy cooking with grandkids and the chance to pass along some useful skills.  My grand daughter Chloe got a lesson in making pie crust and we had a good time.         

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Visitor to the Water Garden

   I've been dying to get a picture of a frog on one of the lily pads in my water garden.  This little guy is actually more like a kidnap victim rather than a visitor.  I found him while weeding blueberries and forcibly moved him over to the water garden.  Fortunately, he decided to humor me and hung around long enough for me to take a few pictures.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cherry Pie

     I picked my pie cherries this morning and put a cherry pie into the oven before leaving for work.  When I combined the crop from both cherry trees I was still about a cup short and had to get a few pie cherries from the freezer in order to make the pie.  I had them sorted into two piles in the bowl.  The larger pile were the cherries I had managed to milk off and leave the pit behind.  The smaller pile were the cherries that still needed to be pitted. The upper picture of the cherries in the tree is the Surefire tree (red juice).  The lower picture is the Montmorency tree (clear juice).  I have to admit that the morello type cherries with their red juice make for a much prettier cherry pie.

      Linda asked for whom the pie was intended and I told her "me."  Mr. Buttercup was unhelpful in the extreme when it came to rolling out pie crust.  I finally banished him to the pantry so I could make my pie crust in peace.  As is tradition in our family the scraps from the crust are always baked with a little cinnamon and sugar.  That part is a lot more fun with a few grandkids around.
   Our favorite daughter-in-law made us some wonderful apricot-pinapple jam, one of my very favorite jams.  Linda said that she hates to open them because they are so beautiful.  I, on the other hand, am dying to open one of them. Unfortunately, I have a firm rule that we can't have more than two jars of jam or jelly open at the same time. I have to finish off one of the already open jars before I can open one of these beauties.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Meet the New Ducks

    I drove to Monroe today and bought three new runner ducks.  I tried to get one male and two females but they aren't quite old enough so that its obvious to tell the difference.  As male ducks mature they get a few curled feathers on the top of their tail.  Since I wasn't prepared to vent sex them there at the feed store we had to rely on their voices to tell the males from the females.  As the feed store employee explained to me, female ducks make a nice clear quack sound while male ducks sound like they have a smokers cough when they quack.  I took his word for it and there was a definite difference in the voices of the two smaller ducks (I think female) and the larger duck (I think male). However, I will try to get them vent sexed some time in the next week to make sure I've got the right makeup for our duck trio.  It won't be so bad if I end up with three females. I just won't get fertile eggs.  It will be bad if I end up with two males as they will spend all of their time fighting over the lone female.

   I didn't want to get several different breeds of duck so I was somewhat limited to what breeds they had more available.  That pretty well narrowed it down to some type of runner ducks.  The white duck on Babe is a runner duck.  These are Fawn and White runner ducks.   Runner ducks are better egg layers than most breeds of duck so I don't think they are a bad choice.  All duck breeds are fairly equal when it comes to eating slugs.  I'm now accepting suggestions for names for the new ducks.

New Woodworking Tool for the Bee Store

    I made a trip with my friend and bee store employee Quentin over to Bainbridge Island last Thursday and purchased a jointer for the bee store. The ferry ride was lovely and a new experience for a cowboy from Wyoming.  Quentin had found the jointer on Craigslist and the price was sufficiently low to easily justify the milage and two ferry rides to fetch it home. I guess one up side to our current soft economy is that the prices have gone down for a lot of things on Craigslist. The guy who sold the jointer is a professional woodworker who logs and mills some pretty special wood. He had just purchased a bigger and better jointer so this one had become surplus.  His woodshop included a big C and C machine, a monster planer, his new jointer with a twelve inch wide bed, and an incredible collection of wood. Even Quentin the seriously obsessive woodworker was impressed.

     A jointer can be a dangerous tool as evidenced by Mike Veatch's loss of part of one digit to a jointer some years back.  One benefit of Mike's injury is that I never turn the machine on without remembering that. It has helped me be very careful with the jointer. Linda had asked me why we needed a jointer and I found it difficult to give her a concise explanation. The difficulty wasn't in justifying the jointer but in explaining its purpose to a non woodworker.  In a nutshell a jointer is used to put a flat surface of a piece of wood.  I have some bigleaf maple that has been curing in my shop for several years.  The jointer does a pretty slick job of flattening one side so I can run it through the table saw and make something useful from it. It can also flatten the edges of boards so they can be glued together to make larger pieces like for a table top or a cedar chest. It can also produce rabbeted edges.  Anyhow, I think its a pretty good addition to our shop.
     These two pictures demonstrate what a jointer can do.  The top piece of wood has been jointed flat on two sides. The lower picture shows the jointed piece compared to a rough unjointed piece.