Sunday, September 28, 2014

More about Grapes

We'd made grape jamly, and we'd made grape pie, but had we ever made them at the same time in the same kitchen? Not until today. It seemed like a good idea to make both simultaneously so that my hands, the sink, and various parts of the kitchen were stained purple only one afternoon, rather than spreading that joy across a couple of days. And, you know, those grapes aren't going to remain viable forever. At least, I assume they won't. They continue to be quite prolific, however. As for today's adventure, I am happy to say that it all worked out fine. Somehow we ended up with a *lot* of grape jamly (so I'm hoping it's not really grape syrup*) and the pie has been pronounced "better than the first one" so that's all good. (Oh, and the new Cuisinart mini-chopper, purchased to replace the Black & Decker that died shortly after its use in the last round of jamly-making? Fan-tastic!)

Also pictured, the post-production-line snack plate and drinks. The drinks featured some Timber City ginger beer, brewed in South Park and sold at the West Seattle Farmers Market. It's *very* gingery.

Also created this evening, a bit late  in the production cycle, a new label:

*Updated to note that it was a lot more like grape syrup. We opened all the jars and boiled the contents for an additional ten or fifteen minutes until it properly passed the cold plate test. Then we put it back in the freshly boiled jars (it now filled only seven), sealed them up with fresh lids, hot-bathed the lot again for ten minutes, and then happily heard them all ping. Labels still require printing but at least it is now jamly and not syrup.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ashes to ashes

The memorial for my father was today ("we're not fast but we're slow" could be my family's motto for scheduling such events) and it included a number of photos, some of which I'd seen before and some that I had not. The following is one of the gems that came out of a box from goodness knows where. What I love most is not that I mistook a model of the Apollo for a lampshade but that in this photo, which presumably was part of a string of "official" photos taken promoting the company (Avco) or the project (the Apollo) my father is holding a cigarette. Really, the trick is to find photos from this period in which my father is not holding a cigarette.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

When life gives you grapes, make pie!

And tonight, grape pie!

 This used up another two pounds of grapes, leaving us with what is scientifically termed, "a fuckofalotmoregrapesstill." I used this grape pie recipe while listening to the Vinyl Cafe September 13 podcast. The length of the show pretty much exactly matched the length of the prep-time for the pie which was pretty ideal. The Morley story about the Dutch oven was darned fine as well. And, again, fingers crossed that the pie is edible. If it is, I'll plan to make another one or two for next week's post-memorial business. While feeling bad that I never made such a pie for my father.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

More Adventures in Preservation: Grape Jelly/Jam

It's Saturday night and I'm updating a blogger that is read by two people. Let's just admit that I'd like to be one of those people who make a living by writing about their daily lives doing things like make jam. Sadly, I'm not one of those people. Perhaps less sadly, I know I'm not one of those people and yet here I am, putting together a post, with a number of photos, about making jam. Or maybe it's jelly. That I can't decide whether what we've made is jelly or jam is likely one of the many reasons I'm not one of those people making a living by my blog posts. Tonight I'm more than willing to accept that because what I have are seven jars of grape jelly/jam that was made with grapes grown in our very own backyard. This pleases me to an absurd extent--an extent that is particularly absurd since I'm not really a huge fan of grape jelly. But here's the story.

This year, for the first year, we have an inordinate number of grapes (Concord, I believe) that have come (oh, how I love that moment when words suddenly make epiphanic sense) to fruition. In previous years either Ratticus has eaten much of the harvest while it was still green or the vines just didn't feel particularly ambitious; I don't know. But this, our fifth full summer in the house, the grapes have been so prolific that it has been impossible to ignore them. And so, despite not being such a fan of grape jelly, I insisted that we should make jelly. Or jam. We used this Concord Grape Jam recipe so I guess it's jam though it seems to me that if you cook it twice and strain it midway through it should be jelly. Whatever. Make with the photos.

 See? This is what we saw when we looked up into the grape arbor. Lovely, isn't it? But also impossible to ignore, especially since all these lovely grapes eventually either a) become food for Ratticus, b) fall to the patio below making a mess, or, most likely, c) both. So I picked what turned out to be more than five pounds (scarcely making a dent in the supplies) and brought them in to be washed, de-vined, and skinned. Skinning Concord grapes, I'm happy to report, turns out to be an incredibly quick and easy business. You squeeze the grape and the innards just squirt out.
Here you see the washing and de-vining stage:

And below are the basic ingredients: grape innards, lemon juice, sugar, and grape skins, some of which had, when this photo was taken, been "pureed" in the handy black&decker chopper which fills the role of "food processor" in our kitchen.   

Next up, all the ingredients get combined in a pot and cooked pretty much until it's all deliquesed. This was one of the selling points of this recipe over the other one found by googling "Concord grape jam recipes"; it didn't require cooking the grape skins separately from the guts. It also had a better grape to sugar ratio (and used a lot more grapes: 5 pounds vs. 8 cups). After cooking, we put the whole mess through the newly purchased food mill. If we'd spent this $34.95 plus tax before we made the blackberry jam, we'd have a lot more blackberry jam now. I suddenly adore the inventor of the food mill.

 After putting the contents of Pot A through the food mill and thus into Pot B, you put Pot B onto the stove and cook the contents until they pass the "cold plate test" which happened a lot more quickly than we expected. For the cold plate test you drop a teaspoon of jam mixture onto a plate you've had in the freezer and then let it sit in the freezer for a minute. If the "mound" of jam then slides as a single unit when you tilt the plate then the jam is sufficiently jelled and you can move onto ladling the stuff into properly prepared jars. This is the least ambiguous test I've ever encountered in the cooking world. I heart it, I do. Of course, I didn't take a photo until after we'd done a taste test or two. Also, below right, the jam ready to be ladled into prepared jars:

Below, the seven half-pint jars once they'd been filled, lidded, processed in a hot bath, and labeled. And, hell, stacked into a pyramid.

 But in Mme. Gradka's kitchen, no job is truly finished until the staff has cocktails:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Alex, We're tentatively calling this a female cinnamon teal. She was at the Basket Slough near Salem, Oregon. Would you agree with that identification?