Wild Blackberries on Sauvie Island

I’ve made several trips to Sauvie Island and shared some of what I found here. On Sunday I made a visit with two friends who know the island well and where the best places for picking wild blackberries are. The berry patches were huge and heavy with plump, ripe fruit. I haven’t picked wild blackberries since I lived in Washington during the 1970s. We had a huge patch in our backyard so picking and cooking with the berries was easy. I made pies and jams and even traded the fruit with other neighbors who had other fruits growing in their yards.

My goal for picking was 3.5 pounds for a single batch of jam with a little more for morning breakfast. These berries are best cooked the same day they are picked while the fragrance and flavor are at their peak. Before I left for the island, I had sugar, lemons and jars at the ready for my return. Another great opportunity to delve into Rachel Saunders’ Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. You can read about the many recipes I’ve cooked from her book by clicking on the category ‘In the Kitchen’, or search the the book title.

While we were picking berries we frightened a large male deer. And as we were headed back to the car with our bag of fruit we spotted quite a little gathering of American green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea). They were certainly in the right habitat, but they didn’t seem concerned about our presence. Click on image for a larger view.

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In a small clump of vines we counted at least 8 frogs, 3 clustered on a single leaf.

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And this one seemed to be posing for us. (Frog photos by Susan, used with permission.)

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The berries were beautiful!

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And since they had just been rinsed with light rain the day before, clean up was a snap. These berries, 1 3/4 pound sugar and 3 ounces fresh lemon juice yielded 6 8-ounce jars of jam plus a little ‘taster.’

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I was inspired to make some bran muffins for breakfast the next day.

07-11-16 breakfast with blackberries

What a fun trip with friends this was! And the rewards will be enjoyed for months to come.

Lemon and Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

I barely squeaked in a batch of marmalade  last year so I’m determined to get with it this year and stock some favorites. The citrus that is available now is just too wonderful to ignore, both fresh and for creating marmalade. This week I turned lemons and pink grapefruit into one of my favorites. The fun thing about following Rachel Saunders’ method for creating marmalade is that the process is broken down into steps that are spread out over three days. What may seem like a daunting task is spread out so that it is easy to do and doesn’t command a large amount of time on one day — need I say more?

Day one: Cut lemons into eights, placed them in a pan and covered them with water.

Day two: Cook the lemons to create a syrupy lemon juice.

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Prepare and cook sliced lemons.

01-27-16 cooked lemons

Juice grapefruit, prepare and cook the rind.

01-27-16 cooked grapefruit

Here’s the fresh grapefruit juice and the cooking liquid from the grapefruit.

01-27-16 grapefruit cooking water, fresh juice

 

Day three: Prepare the grapefruit halves by scraping out the centers and cutting the rind into small strips.

01-27-16 grapefruit rind

 

01-27-16 grapefruit rind cut

Juice fresh lemons.

01-27-16 lemon juice, fresh

Assemble all the prepared ingredients plus sugar in a copper preserving pan for cooking.

01-27-16 ready to cook

It’s beautiful already! When cooking is complete, ladle marmalade into sterilized jars and remove trapped air by inserting a knife and running it around the outer edge of the jar.

01-27-16 releasing air

Clean jar rims and place caps on the jars.

01-27-16 ready for lids and the oven

You can see that I got 12 half-pint jars and a small ramekin from this batch. The jars were placed in a 250 degree oven for 30 minutes and allowed to cool at room temperature overnight. Scones anyone?

You can see more of my preserving adventures by choosing the “In the Kitchen” category at the right. You can find Rachel’s book here.

Cranberries

Fresh cranberries arrive in the markets before Thanksgiving, just in time to create those wonderful relishes we all love for our celebration dinner table. I usually purchase a few extra bags just before Christmas because they begin to fade from market shelves in January. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to make some marmalade, Cranberry-Pomegranate marmalade that is.

This combination is the perfect sweet-tart flavor that I simply adore. I have been making it each year since I purchased The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders in 2010. The color and texture of this marmalade screams “holiday!” reminding me of the good times shared with friends and family. It has become my own holiday tradition.

01-13-16 Cranberry-Pomegranate Marmalade

This is the first phase of cooking; the light color on the top is a foam that I will skim off, leaving a beautiful clear color. I realize you cannot tell how much is here from this photograph. When cooking is done, I will have 12 half-pint jar of marmalade — enough to share with friends and to enjoy ourselves all year. Yum!

What holiday traditions have you created?

Pumpkin Sketch

This is the last squash from our weekly box of vegetables. I loved the big bold stem on this small pumpkin. Click on image for a larger view.

pumpkin

I did, in fact, use it in a pumpkin-chicken curry dish. Yum!

A Bit of Cooking

A bit of excitement here — yesterday we received the first box of vegetables from Shooting Star CSA. Deliveries will continue each Tuesday through the end of November.

Franki Kohler, First box of the season

I couldn’t wait to dive in! I made Radish-Top Soup with Lemon and Yogurt from Deborah Madison’s new book, Vegetable Literacy. Yum! You can see more about Deborah and that book here.

And since I was in the mood and in the kitchen, I decided to try my hand at the mole recipe I got from Tracy Ritter while in Santa Fe. I learned long ago that the easiest way to cook is to prepare. Here are all the ingredients assembled, ready to use.

Franki Kohler, assembling the ingredients

After roasting, chopping, and browning the ingredients simmer to finish cooking and thickening.

Franki Kohler, cooking

From start to finish about one hour elapsed. Time to get some shrimp out and give it a taste test.

Franki Kohler, Mole done

Thanks to great local vegetables and some wonderful chefs we’re eating some mighty fine meals.

New World Cuisine – Chocolate!

I’m in Santa Fe for a SAQA conference and had a morning open. My friend Carol Larson suggested a class on mole at Santa Fe School of Cooking and I said, “Count me in!” David joined us and we had a great time.

Chef Tracy Ritter took us through an historic background on chocolate, a variety of peppers and other essentials before the cooking began. Dishes to be prepared included:

Mole

Chipotle shrimp in adobo

Arroz verde

Calabacitas

Chipotle black beans with cacao

Warm Mayan chocolate pudding

Chef Ritter started by taking us through a primer on a variety of chilis that are used in southwest cooking, including their heat levels and fresh and dried appearance.

Franki Kohler, Chef Tracy Ritter talks peppers

The mole was the first dish to assemble since it would take the longest to cook. Mole can consist of a wide variety of things — and, surprise! — it doesn’t always contain chocolate. We learned that the three primary cornerstones to a mole would include chilis (2 or more varieties), nuts and seeds, and fruit. Chef Ritter cooked a recipe that she has developed containing 19 ingredients including ancho and guajillo chiles, pecans, sesame seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), green apple, dried apricots, Mexican chocolate and bitter chocolate — this was, after all, a class about chocolate. Among the many essential steps of creating mole is toasting seeds, nuts, chilis and spices — toasting these ingredients releases flavors essential to the mole.

Franki Kohler, Mole, ready to simmer

Here is Chef Ritter tending to the Calabacitas, a dish common to the southwest containing corn squash and beans — also known as the three sisters.

Franki Kohler, Chef Ritter tends the Calabacitas

Chef Noa helps with final touches.

Franki Kohler, Chef Noa helps with final prep

Once cooked, lunch is plated.

Franki Kohler, Plating Lunch

Mirrors make watching all the action so easy.

Franki Kohler, Plating Lunch

And here’s lunch. Chipotle shrimp in adobo are plated on top of the mole. Yum! Yum! Yum!

Franki Kohler, Lunch

Having the historic and cultural background for the foods and preparation of the dishes was key to enjoying this class and meal. Future travel plans will include cooking classes for me.

Buddha Hand Bonanza!

Spring officially arrives on the 21st of the month but my Buddha Hand tree doesn’t keep a calendar. It is loaded with blossoms and nearly every cluster has a fruit well on its way. See the small one developing just NE of the open blossom?

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This fruit is already about 5 inches long.

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A few days ago I noticed that the candied Buddha Hand in my cupboard was looking moist. Since moisture can create mold, I spread it on a drying rack and let it dry for several days.

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When dry — though still tacky to the touch — I rolled it in sugar.

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It’s now ready to store. This is destined for jam making this spring. Yum!

Early Girl Tomato Marmalade

Our Early Girl tomato plants have been very productive this year. We’ve enjoyed the fruit steadily all summer and, even though it’s November, the fruit continues to ripen in our mild weather.

Time to try another of Rachel Saunders’ recipes from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook! I love marmalade so what could be better than her Early Girl Tomato Marmalade?

The prepared tomatoes, lemons, oranges, sugar, lemon juice and a generous pinch of saffron are stirred together and sit overnight.

The next morning the fruit is placed in the preserving pan along with the final ingredient, cinnamon, and the cooking begins.

The marmalade is cooked at high heat without stirring. . .

until the bubbles become very small. This indicates that the moisture has been cooked off. It’s really close to being done here.

And here it is done, ready to store or gift to friends.

I’ve shared other adventures with Rachel’s cookbook here. If my tomatoes continue to produce, I may have to make some Early Girl Tomato Jam.

Broken Ginkgos IV Done

The final touches were completed this morning. I was successful in getting a variety of designs and design sizes in this small quilt so I’m pleased with the outcome. This series is quite fun! I have #5 ready to quilt and #6 is mentally being pulled together.

And here’s the back

Who knows when this series will fizzle out. All I can say for now is I don’t see an end yet.

A small detour to the garden is necessary — by way of the kitchen, that is. Last night’s dinner included my own cilantro pesto combined with an heirloom tomato from this week’s box of farm fresh vegetables. Browning the crust of the pizza here

and here it is out of the oven.

Total time: 15 minutes. Total satisfaction.

Cabinet Redux

I’m visiting my sister this week and we each have lots of fun projects in mind. One of the things that Christy has had in mind for a while is working out a way to hide cubby shelves under some cabinets in her kitchen. They are little catch-all spots that are handy but not attractive.

Christy is also a quilter so she naturally wondered how her fabric stash could come to the rescue. Should she keep the simple fabric drop that had covered the cubby holes for the last 2 years or replace with something that could be changed at a whim? Should she make a quilted something-er-other that would reflect the four seasons of the desert where she lives? The possibilities are mind-boggling. In the end, an ability to change the look of whatever covered the opening was critical to the formula.

Pockets to the rescue. With clear vinyl (available from the local hardware store) stitched across the bottom portion of the fabric drop and sectioned into pockets, a change of look is easy!

I think it’s kinda fun. And Christy is happy with it. What do you think?

Tart Skills

We had several friends at our home for dinner Easter Sunday.  It was a great opportunity to work on my skills at making a tart because my friend Peter was there and what he doesn’t know about cooking isn’t worth mentioning. I had sweet pastry dough in the freezer (I brought it home from his house when we had dinner with him a few weeks ago.) and Peter brought some Frangipane filling. We’ll be making a 12″ tart.

The pastry was thawed, rolled and fitted into the tart pan.

Now it’s popped into the freezer. Once the pastry is solid, the Frangipane filling — an almond-cream filling — is spread in the bottom of the pan. Here we are having a silly moment.

Next comes the rhubarb-raspberry jam. . . yes, the whole jar — it’s only 8 ounces. Dabs of about 1 tablespoon are placed evenly but not spread at all.

The little gaps are filled with mixed berries — cherries, raspberries and blueberries.

A sprinkle of sugar and it’s ready for the oven.

And now for the apology: I failed to get a photo of the tart after it baked. So you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was picture perfect and brought rave reviews at the dining table.

Now I feel confident that I can do this on my own without a disaster. I promise that I’ll snap a photo of the finished tart next time.

Inspiration in everything

I am having my own Julie & Julia experience with Rachel Saunders’  Blue Chair Cookbook. Professional cooks refer to her as the Czar of Jam.  I purchased her book last year as a Christmas gift for a friend. I realized upon opening it that I had to have my own copy.  Rachel is a local girl and she teaches — lucky me. I took her marmalade class and haven’t looked back. During the winter I made Cranberry-Pomegranate, Strawberry-Blood orange, Lemon and Pink Grapefruit and Rangpur Lime marmalades and Cranberry-Pluot conserves.

The book is organized by season so it coordinates easily with my buying habits at the local farmer’s market. This spring I made Strawberry-Rhubarb, Rhubarb-Cherry, Cherry,  and Rhubarb with Candied Ginger jams. Here’s the beginning of Rhubarb-Cherry jam. The copper preserving pan is one of the keys to successful jam making. When not in use, it’s great eye candy in the kitchen.

I have a navel orange tree and recently used her recipe for candied orange rind.

The texture and color of this orange rind is inspiring in many ways: stir my cappuccino? Dice for my next jam-making session? Or how about a quilt! Now we’re cookin’.