Monday, August 21, 2017

Cooking - even when you mess up, it's often still yummy (Plum Jam)

Plum jam is a favorite of mine yet I've never made it. Well, actually I made it once, under the supervision of my Grandmother when she showed me how to make her version. Unfortunately her version was a freezer jam and my freezer is stuffed full at the moment. So I figured I'd just whip up a canned jam instead. Easy, right?

I used the instructions in the Sure-jell pectin package. Seemed pretty straightforward, chop the plums, cook with a bit of water, measure out the exact amount of fruit, add the pectin, boil hard, add the sugar, boil hard again, waterbath can, you're done.

My first problem was with "chop the plums". Their definition of a fine chop and mine differ. Unfortunately, mine wasn't fine enough so my pieces of plum failed to cook down in the 5 minutes specified. That's okay, a recipe at this stage is just a suggestion, so I cooked a bit longer to break them down. Since I now needed to measure out exactly six cups of fruit I realized that my chop size was going to impact how full my measuring cup actually got. A larger chop means less fruit to fill it (at this point I degenerated to a mental rant about canning recipes failing to specify weights). I decided to just pack the fruit into the cup and hope for the best. I had a lot of fruit left in the pan but I'd figure out something to with it later.

Added the pectin and started cooking to a rolling boil. My fruit is still too chunky without enough liquid to actually roll. It got there eventually but boy did it take a long time to release enough juice. In the meantime I kept mashing the plums with my spoon to help things along. I seriously thought about taking my immersion blender to it (and I probably should have) but I'd reached that stubborn stage where you just want to see how it all works out.

Added the sugar and finally got enough liquid so now things are progressing more smoothly. Rolling boil achieved, timed, and now ready to can.

The actual canning went very smoothly. I skimmed off the foam, filled the hot jars, processed, and everything sealed as it should. My yield, most likely because I had less fruit than I should was only eight cups, not ten. The jam was actually solidifying while I filled the jars (again, probably due to my pectin to fruit ratio) so no problem with set. The bit of extra jam left over was mixed in with the foam and stuck in the refrigerator. I'm happy to say it was fantastic lavishly spread on our breakfast toast.

Oh, and the extra cooked plums? Keep in mind that they were just barely cooked (10 minutes in the pot) and still quite firm. I spread them in a small baking dish, stirred in some cardamon scented sugar, topped with a sugar/flour/butter mixture and baked as a Plum Crisp. Surprisingly good.

Friday, August 18, 2017

More pics from the game camera

Deer: shy, aloof, quiet shadows passing through the woods...

Yeah, right. Our deer blow, call, and stamp. They also love to pose for the camera.

Nice buck enters stage left
"Is that a camera?"
"It is! It is a camera!"
"It clicked! Run!"
Same buck, re-enter stage left 
"Ignore camera" 
"Did it get me?"
"My left side is my best. I look so noble."
"Hee hee hee." 
Same deer again?
Nope, this time a doe who also likes the camera
"Get a close up"
"Oh, too close?"
"Fine" Exit stage right

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New wool rug for the living room

Have you ever noticed that when you're trying to find a "before" photo this is all you can come up with?

Technically, it shows the living room...
I went a bit further back and did find this one though. The back wall is missing the clock, the side wall doesn't have any paintings, and there aren't any curtains, but at least it shows the floor, right?

A bit more like it
The point of all this is that I finally received the custom-made rug that I purchased way back in February when I was in India. It took them a full 5 months to hand tie the wool rug and I was nervous as all get-out that it wouldn't be as good as I remembered. Or rather, as good as I imagined since I didn't really have an example in exactly my size and colors. That's right, I got to specify size and color. No pressure, right?

Carefully packed
Seems a bit small for a 10'x10' rug...
When we got it rolled out, I was amazed at the depth of color and the feel of the wool. This thing is simply gorgeous. Kind of hard to photograph a rug that covers this much area, but this is about the best I could do.
It's wonderful
It's a deep, dark blue with sage green palm trees. It fills the living room floor and pulls your eye so that the room looks wider. Nice effect and it feels fantastic under your bare feet. I can hardly wait to see how it feels when the floor heat is running this winter.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pottery results

Chris finished his pottery class and brought home a wealth of new stuff. 
The haul
Isn't this sheep adorable???
Berry "bowl"
Two dry erase memo bubbles
I asked for a ring dish
Gorgeous glazing - raku
Change bowl
More raku glazing 
A pen & glasses holder
A yarn bowl (love this!)
Two styles of garlic keeper

An owl bell
Snack bowl
Wonderful color
Wine bottle drip catchers
A perfect fit
My wedding ring for scale in the ring dish
Attaching the bell's clapper 
Hung in the garden 
Fits right in
A small harvest from the bushes
The class was great. Chris learned a lot about throwing pottery and decided he liked it so much we bought a kick wheel off Craig's List. He's now trying to teach me...I'm sure there will be many more posts to get out of that!

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Dog Day Afternoon

Cooper is enjoying the summer. She especially loves the sun-warmed front yard.

Roll, roll. 
Squirm squirm 
Even an empty sour cream container is fun when it's nice out

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pottery class

Chris has been taking another pottery class, this one more focused on different glazing and firing techniques. It's also given him the opportunity to use a pottery wheel (the last class was all about hand-building). 

The studio he's going to has many potters on site and the class has a bunch of students so filling up the kiln wasn't too hard. A full kiln is a happy kiln!
Getting ready to fire
There are many different firing techniques and they each give a different finish to the work. There is raku, which involves burning straw:
There sagar, which uses wood chips and chemicals and even copper wire.  And then there is regular high-firing which results in a food safe finish (if you use the right glaze).

He's had great fun learning new techniques to create change bowls, garlic keepers, ring bowls, statuary, and many miscellaneous type items.
The bee hive cap
Garlic keeper
A yarn bowl
Not everything has made it home yet so I don't have finished photos, but I did get some pictures of the cap for the log bee hive.
Placing the cap
This is a sagar finish 
Isn't it adorable?
He's actually enjoyed this class so much that we're looking at getting a kick wheel so we can turn stuff at home. Maybe we'll be able to convert the Nest into a pottery / art studio. A much better use for it than a storage shed.