Friday, August 30, 2013

a family tradition

Every year since Uzi has been born, we head up north to an organic farm to camp, watch our friends' bands play music, swim in a fast river, and wake up early to watch the barn swallows swoop swiftly around the hay bales. It's a beautiful farm, a lovely place to camp, and an awesome spot for our pre-kids life and current one to commingle. Most of our friends play music (as do Josh and I) and we try to go to their shows as much as possible. Unfortunately, there aren't many spots for all-ages shows in town and we have to skip out on a lot of events. 

Uzi loves music, he loves watching and listening and could sing perfectly on key when he was a mere babe. He notices all sorts of details in songs and picks out instruments and just really pays attention to all of it. He loves watching our friends play and will just sit there intensely focused on the show until it is finished. So really any opportunity we get to take him to a show our friends' are playing, we are there. And this spot just happens to be probably the best spot for family music watching, farm playing, spending time with our friends, and camping amongst the apple trees. 

This year we picked lots of wild blackberries, stayed up super late to watch Lake play (love this video!), hiked through the tall grass to find a secret river spot, made willow crowns, and jumped off hay bales. Uzi got to cross the river with Josh for the first time this year (it is a very swift river!) while Shoshi and I watched from the muddy banks. We headed home tired, dirty, and happy with a basket overflowing with delicious veggies. A wonderful summer tradition. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

peaches forever, and canning so many of them.

So I might have mentioned in the previous post that we were rich in peaches, about fifty pounds of them. I let them sit for a couple days while we were camping, but as soon as we got home I set to work. It took about two days to take care of them all, but now they are preserved in so many different ways and ready to give us a little bit of that summery sunshine in the midst of our grey, dark winter. 

The day we picked them was one of those gloriously sweltering days, that don't come around to often around here. We were hot during the long car drive stuck in traffic, hot in the dry fields with peach fuzz all over us, and hot heading home as the sun started to set. I love those days because it feels so full of summer, and I love to remember them when the days begin to cool. 

This little lady (who fell on her chin at the pool the day before), was happy wandering the orchard and collecting and eating the fallen peaches. These trees were great because they were little and even Shosh could pick her own peaches from the tree. We were there on the first or second day of the season (for the variety we were picking, Veteran) so a lot of the fruit was still ripening. But even so, there was still tons of ripe fruit for the picking. 

So the fruit made its way into many different jams, canned on their own and with vanilla in a light syrup, ice cream, popsicles, a crisp, and frozen for smoothies. I canned a ton of them and used several different recipes, all without any added pectin (I am trying to can everything without pectin this year). It was my first time canning peaches whole, so I followed a few different recipes. I made the vanilla ones from this book, some basic ones from this book, and some following the recipe on this website.

For jams I also made a bunch of different batches. I used a recipe or two from this book and a couple from this book again too. Some with vanilla, because we love vanilla over here, and some without. Right before I started canning, the Saving the Season book by Kevin West arrived on hold for me at the library. I used a few of the recipes this time around, and I think this might be my new favorite canning book. I can't wait to get to sit and look at it a bit more, but I am loving it. I think it might be on my birthday wish list (which is coming up rather quickly- my how times flies!). 

And maybe I should ask for a proper canning pot too- I have been canning all these years without a proper pot or rack- might be about time to invest in one. The canning plan for the rest of the summer is: tomatoes, dilly beans, pickled beets, pickles, blackberry jam, and as it turns into fall, applesauce. I also have a huge bunch of basil that needs to be turned into pesto and kept in the freezer. I always make a ton of jars of pesto every year and we always run out. We get a hankering for it in early spring, and eat lots of it. 

(this is about a third of what I canned, the rest is in the pantry, and I couldn't bring myself to drag it out just for a photo)

Happy canning to all of you! What are you putting up this year?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

making elderberry syrup and tincture

Uzi and I have been watching some wild elderberries ripening all summer, and the other day we stopped by and picked a bagful on our way home from swimming. The elderberries in our yard are not quite ripe yet, and probably won't yield a ton this first year. But there are lots of elderberries around town that were ready to go, so that is what we used.

Elderberry syrup is one of our go-to medicines in the fall and winter, so we wanted to make a big batch to last us through the cold months. We had a lot left over, so we also made a big batch of elderberry tincture. The hardest part is just meticulously picking the berries off the stem, but the rest of it is so simple! Just a head's up that the uncooked berries are poisonous, as are the stems and leaves. Also do not use red elderberries, as they are potentially toxic. Also, a reminder that babies under one should not consume honey. One of the recipes I looked at advised if you were giving the syrup to a child under two, to add the syrup to hot water to kill the microbes in the honey first.

The flowers are beautiful and look like little stars, you can through them in a batter or make a tea with them. We still have some berries left over, so once I deal with the 45 pounds of peaches sitting in my garage, I might make an elderberry apple jelly.

Here's the recipe we used for the syrup:

3 cups water
1 cup fresh (blue) elderberries (or 1/2 cup dried)
1 cup honey (we used a local, raw honey)

Separate all the berries from the stems and gently wash. Place berries and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then gently simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Strain the berries with a super fine mesh strainer (you don't want the seeds in the syrup) and push on the berries to release all the juice. I let cool for a bit and then stirred in the honey. Bottle it up and store in the fridge. We made three batches of this recipe which yielded just about three quarts of syrup (which is a lot!). 

Elderberry tincture:

Separate the berries from the stems and give a gentle wash. Fill up a jar almost all the way with the berries (we used a quart Ball jar and went just about up to the neck) and then squish them up a bit. Uzi wanted to do it, so I poured them into a bowl to make it easier for him and then poured them back in to the jar. Then fill the jar up with alcohol (we used vodka because that's what we had, but you could use brandy) until it covers the berries by about 1-2 inches. Store in a dark place and give it a shake every once in a while. Let sit for 4-6 weeks and then strain the berries and seeds and bottle. 

Here's to a healthy winter! 

Friday, August 2, 2013

home, again.

 We just got in from our trip to the midwest the other night. We had a great time there, and it also feels so good to be home. We spent a lot of our time on Lake Michigan: swimming, collecting rocks, building sandcastles, playing in an awesome fort on the beach, picking blueberries and mulberries, and hanging out with family. There were many games of Set, Rummikub, and Banagrams. Lots of bagels and lox. Some late night trips for ice cream. Uniform shopping for my soon-to-be kindergartner. We headed into the Chicago suburbs for a cousin's very orthodox jewish wedding. We dressed up fancy and Uzi danced with the hasidic men and got raised up in the air. It was fascinating, full of ritual and tradition. I loved the chance to peek into that world.

We came home to a clean house (yay!), many eggs from our chickens, two trees full of ripe figs (any ideas?), and a garden that needs some love. We headed to the farmer's market to load up on some gorgeous produce (cherries, corn, tomatoes, broccoli, french beans, carrots, cucumbers and lettuce) from our favorite farm and then to the market for a few essentials. Life was feeling seriously abundant, full, and delicious. Uzi even said as we got in the car "thanks for all the good food, mama"! 

We are gearing up for an insanely full weekend, full of many wonderful things. A music festival that my best friend is playing in, a shabbat party, a visit from the fabulous Grammie, some visits with other out-of-town friends, and a picnic with Uzi's new school. Today we are taking it slow and taking care of things around the house. Uzi and Josh picked up some ladybugs for the garden (we couldn't find any lacewings locally) to help with the aphid problem on our cole crops, I am about to put a pot of beans in the oven, and we might make a quick trip to the library. Be back soon! 

this moment

inspired by soulemama