Monday, May 31, 2010

spring bounty - aka partial success is better than total failure?

((as i'm finishing up this post, i'm watching yet more rain fall onto our already drenched grass. we've had over 3 inches in the last couple of days, and are expecting rain on and off for at least another week. 
when i originally started this post (a couple weeks ago) the lawn was still  in full flower. now it's mostly gone to seed. too bad. but perhaps i should start thinking about dandelion coffee?))

The back yard of our rental lot is garden-less, but has a bounty of poorly cared-for lawn. (I've never been the golf-course green type. Heck, i'm not the golf type either!)
I consider this lawn a bounty because it is BRIMMING with dandelions, and I decided this year to start incorporating more wild plants into my diet. Now, i'm a little skeptical of using the dandelion greens for salad, mostly as i'm not a huge salad fan. However, i recently came across a recipe for Dandelion jam, and after mulling it over for a few weeks, decided to take the plunge and make some for myself.
I searched about on the net, and ended up using this recipe, with minor alterations.
 fresh flowers

Now, before i print the recipes, i should note that NEITHER batch actually set on the first try. (i re-boiled with a second pectin pack and they're all fine) However, i think this is because i didn't bring them to a high enough boil for long enough before canning them. So, well.... consider yourself warned.

Pick yourself a bunch of fully opened dandelion flowers. don't be surprised if you pick either way too many, or way too few! (i picked enough for all three batches PLUS extras in about 20 mins with my daughter)
to prepare the petals, use scissors to cut off the petal part, and discard the bottom of the flower and stem ( see this post for good pictures!)
prepared petals

Batch one: Dandelion Jam

2Cups prepared dandelion petals (about 200 flowers)
2 cups boiling water
1pkg pectin
1 peeled, cored, and pureed apple
4 Cups sugar
1 tbsp Lemon juice

1. in a heat-safe bowl, place petals. Pour boiling water on top. cover, and refrigerate overnight. 
2. in the morning, strain the petals. pour the liquid into a largish pot.
3. Follow the directions on the pectin box for jelly  (make the same as for an apple jelly)... often the instructions suggest bringing to a boil with the pectin, THEN adding the sugar. PLEASE READ YOUR DIRECTIONS! (as a side note, i would recommend liquid pectin for these recipes) 
4. if your pectin is direction-less, try this method (as per the recipe i altered): add all remaining ingredients including pectin.  bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Hard boil for 10 minutes (that's a bubbly rolling boil, not a wimpy barely-bubbling boil).
5. pour into jars and seal as desired (i canned mine in 250ml jars for 10 minutes)
makes 4-5 cups

petals steeping in boiling water

batch two: Dandelion citrus Jam
2 cups prepared petals (about 200 flowers)
2 cups boiling water
1/4 Cup Lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1 pkg pectin
1 citrus fruit rind, finely sliced

note: i used about 2/3 the rind of a grapefruit. you can use whatever fruit you like. i used a peeler to remove sheets of peel (without the white rind), then sliced them into julienne-style strips about 1/8" by 1" long   

preparation: follow directions from batch one. it's exactly the same procedure!

After trimming all those petals for the jam batches, i still had a TON of flowers, so i decided to make a batch of Dandelion syrup as well. The recipe i used is based on this one.

Dandelion syrup
400 dandelion flowers, trimmed (around 4 cups)
4 cups of water
4 1/2  cups sugar
2tbs lemon juice

1.  pour boiling water over flower tops. cover and refrigerate overnight. 
2. in the morning, strain off the liquid, and pour it into a large pot. Add to this the remaining ingredients. Bring this to a low boil (simmer) and cook for about two hours, stirring occasionally. 
3. At about the two hour mark, the syrup will begin becoming more frothy (and increasing in temperature as it starts to candy). take it off the heat.
4. pour into jars or containers, and can if desired
5. this makes about 4 cups

here is the finished products:

left to right: Syrup, batch one, batch two

I've tried the syrup on pancakes, and little girl has enjoyed the apple dandelion jam on bread.... a nice light floral flavor, and subtle lemony-ness make this quite enjoyable!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Away from home

this is a photo-free post because I'm away from home this week (visiting our families) and i'm not sure if my camera will sync with hubbies' work computer. just thought i'd let you know why i've been "AFK" so far this week. Don't worry though, i've got a couple interesting foodie posts coming up.... i've just got to get them written!!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Strawberry syrup

I recently bought some strawberries from the local big-box grocery, as they were on sale, and looked like they were in pretty good shape. We ate some of them, but as little man tends to get facial rashes when he eats too many, and hubby hardly ever touches raw fruit unless it's an apple, the berries were getting old fast. Since i had just recently made strawberry fro-yo, and even more recently made some delish vanilla ice cream, i decided to take the berries and turn them into strawberry syrup, to top said icy goodness. I searched the net, and found a few recipes, compared them, then made my own. here it is:

Strawberry Sauce
1 pint strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp lemon juice 
1 tsp oil or butter (optional)

1. rinse strawberries, remove tops, then dice or chop flesh. add sugar, and stir. Leave this mixture for about an hour, or until the sugar has pretty much dissolved 

*side note* i've heard this is the best way to make mediocre strawberries taste good. it brings out the flavor more than just cooking them right away

2. puree all or most (as desired) of the berries. add all berries, syrup and sauce to a pot. add lemon juice. 

 3. cook the berries on medium, stirring frequently. When they begin to boil, you can add the oil, if desired. it will keep the 'frothiness' to a minimum.

4. boil for about 5 minutes. if you intend to use syrup cold, or the sauce is already thick enough, go to step 5. if the sauce is intended for use hot, and is to thin, add the following:

2 tsp corn starch
2tbs water
mix together the starch and water in a seperate cup. add to the berries, whisking constantly. boil 2 more minutes to cook the starch.

5. this syrup can be used immediately, or stored (or even canned) for later use. i poured my syrup into jars, and found that the full jars sealed (however, i know that i didn't can them properly, so plan on keeping them refrigerated until use)  Makes just over 2 cups syrup. yum!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spinning fun

I am quite enjoying Spinning these days, and thought  i would give you a peek at what i've been working on.

Here is a pic of the one-tone wools i have spun recently. most of it will be used for naalbinding (which i will hopefully be doing a post on soon, for all my vike and non-vike friends alike!)

This is my current WIP (work in progress)... a multitonal two-ply. I'm in the midst of plying it right now. i'll take another pic once it's all skeined up. it's going to be used for a kids hat... should make for interesting colors, i think. I plan on doing another similar one, with slightly different colors, for the other child (no need to get them fighting over just one hat.... there's enough of that already!

I have to say, using my one commercial spindle for plying, it feels HUGE compared to the viking-sized ones i have been using lately (and looks huge too) yet it didn't feel unwieldy when i was using it originally... just now. Hm. All a matter of perspective, i guess.

Hope everyone is having a fun friday!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wonderous Vanilla

Vanilla is such a wonderful thing, isn't it?

I've been researching vanilla ice cream recipes, and came across this one. part of it includes a vanilla sugar recipe.
Vanilla sugar? hello! i LOVE vanilla sugar.... i use it in my hot chocolate recipe, and would use it elsewhere, except that it's so stinkin' expensive!!! a few tablespoons for $4?

Now, i like the recipe but there was no way i was buying an OUNCE of vanilla beans. at my rough estimate (the two beans i bought being 4g and about $6) it'd cost me about 40 dollars for an ounce of beans.  This being said, i altered the recipe. here's what i did:

Vanilla Sugar, in two parts

2 vanilla beans
3 1/2 cups vanilla sugar, divided

you will also need a mortar and pestle, a sharp knife and cutting board, and containers to store your sugar, as well as a sieve.

1. Slice open the vanilla beans. Use the knife to scrape out the seeds and juicy bits. Add these to the mortar, along with sugar (up to 1/2 cup, depending on size of mortar). Macerate thoroughly, to break apart the seeds and the fleshy bits. Add remaining sugar (to a total of 1/2 cup) and stir, then sieve to remove fibrous bits.

This vanilla sugar can be used in ice-cream making at a rate of 1tbsp sugar = approximately 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract. 

2. Take remaining pods, and dice finely. In batches, mash them with sugar, then strain out the bits, adding them back to the mortar. Repeat until either A) the sugar no longer becomes sticky and brown tinted or B) your arms get tired.  Add the bits and remaining sugar (i used 3 cups total) to a container. store for two weeks to allow the flavor to leach fully into the sugar, then strain out the bits.  This sugar is quite strongly scented, and could be further diluted with plain sugar if desired!

This second vanilla sugar can be used in anything, including coffee, desserts, or anything you can imagine! 
the flavor seems to be as strong as store bought vanilla sugar, possibly stronger!

see the yummy flakes of vanilla goodness?

that means:
store bought vanilla sugar: $4 for about 4 tbsp

2 beans              $6
3 1/2 c sugar     $.50?
total               56 tablespoons of tasty goodness, and a HUGE SAVINGS!

i am so going to be giving some as gifts to family! yum yum yum!

I also tried the recipe for the Philadelphia-style ice cream using method 3 and flavoring with 1tbs vanilla sugar (seed type) and 1/2 tbs vanilla extract. it is DIVINE!  (and so so fattening... but that's a recipe 'tweak' for a different day, methinks!)  

hope everyone had a good weekend, and a good mother's day where applicable :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wordless wednesday

my current mystery project
(i'll give you the scoop in about 2 weeks when it's done!)