Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tart Cherries: Picking, Pitting, and Processing!

Our final foray up to northern Michigan for the summer included a mamma-mandated trip back to Rennie Orchards to pick tart cherries! Homemade cherry jam is one of my favorite things to eat all winter long, and there is just something about the fact that I hand-picked and pitted these cherries that makes the jam even sweeter for me. I love preserving the season for later!

cherry picking :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

cherry picking :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

cherry picking :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Jackpot! Low-hanging fruit!

We ended up with about 18 pounds of fresh tart cherries to take home to Chicago with us, and the next day we got right down to business. (Tart cherries don't like to wait around.)

With this new cherry pitter in hand, we pitted and pitted and pitted! Anne helped, of course. Never underestimate the enthusiasm of a toddler for an excruciatingly tedious task.

cherry pitting :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Once pitted, the cherries were processed in one of three ways:

1. Maraschino Cherries, a half batch of this ginormous recipe, using about 5 pounds, and yielding 2 pints and 8 half-pints: http://leapphotography.com/blog/2015/06/maraschino-cherries-home-canning-recipe-boise-photographers/

Assemble booze, etc:

maraschino cherries :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Bring to a boil:

maraschino cherries :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Pack the pitted cherries:

maraschino cherries :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Pour over hot, sweet, boozy goodness:

maraschino cherries :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Voila!

2. Tart Cherry Jam, doubling this trusty recipe that I've used for the last 2 years, using about 8 pounds, and yielding 3 pints and 8 half-pints: http://foodinjars.com/2009/07/sour-cherry-jam-recipe/

cherry jam :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

cherry jam :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

3. Frozen pitted tart cherries for pies, etc. Two pies' worth, about 2 pounds per pie.

The final product:

Cherries 2015 :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Not pictured: one exhausted, cherry-stained, and happy pregnant mamma.



Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Garden Update {8.3.2015}: Death, Destruction, and Starting Over

Garden 8.3.2015:: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Yesterday I went to my garden to check out the damage. It was really bad. Really, really bad. It turns out that the mystery herbicide that was sprayed (and damaged about half the beds in the community garden) was RoundUp, which is not exactly something you want to eat. So the organizers of the garden encouraged everyone with an affected bed to pull out all the plants so the soil can be amended and repaired.

Garden 8.3.2015:: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

I am not ashamed to say that I broke down and sobbed as I pulled all my poor, dead plants out of the ground. I am heartbroken, not to mention more than a little angry that all the time and money I poured into this little piece of earth is now rendered a total waste. No ripe cherry tomatoes for Anne to pick off the vine and eat, no little baby pumpkins to make into pie. No pickles, no quarts of sun-warmed San Marzano tomatoes to make into pizza and pasta all winter long.

Garden 8.3.2015:: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

I. Am. So. Sad.

Garden 8.3.2015:: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Garden 8.3.2015:: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Tomorrow, gardeners will gather to do what we can to fix the soil, and then I guess we will re-plant. What can you plant in mid-August, fellow gardeners? What can I look forward to? Any ideas to help pull me from the depths of despair? I appreciate your help and suggestions!

*In case you're wondering, here's what we're adding to the soil to help eliminate the toxins and restore it to a place where you want to grow food:

- an activated charcoal called Biogize SD to absorb and detox the chemicals that may remain in the soil
- Food Safe Zeolite to help further detox the soil and help boost the new plants going in to better take on the nutrients it needs
- Garrett Juice, a concentrated organic spray to reenergize the microorganisms living in the soil that will eat toxins. 

More to come soon.





















Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Garden Update {July 28, 2015}

It is a sad day in the garden, friends. I've been noticing a lot of yellowing and drooping lately, which I thought was due to the lack of rain and the arrival of some really hot days. So I set to watering, thinned and pruned, and then put down a layer of compost and mulch. Then I got an email from the garden manager, stating that there may have been an inadvertent (and totally in violation of the agreement that was set up when the garden was started) application of HERBICIDE to kill weeds along the train tracks. Heartbreaking. The email included some tips as to how to revive the plants, so I'm going to do all I can. We'll see.

Here's the zucchini on July 22, right after I thinned them:

July 22, 2015 :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

And here they are on July 25. Womp womp.

July 25, 2015 :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

I'm not totally convinced that it was only the herbicide that caused their sad state. I didn't do any research into the best ways to thin these plants before I started yanking (when will I learn?), and it turns out that beans and cucurbits (melons, squash, cucumbers... aka everything on this side of the garden) have fragile roots and should be thinned early and very carefully. I wasn't so careful. Whoops. I hope that the mulch application will help the roots to reestablish themselves.

Cucumbers after thinning and staking (I think these cages are designed for peppers, but they're perfect for pickling cucumbers!), July 22:

July 22, 2015 :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Then on July 25 (post herbicide attack):

July 25, 2015 :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

The tomatoes were doing so well!!! PLEASE DON'T ALL DIE!!!!

July 25, 2015 :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

A new addition to keep us happy, even in the face of minor adversity.

July 25, 2015 :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

_______________________________________________________________________

This video taught me how to prune my cucumbers and tomatoes, to the point where I felt reasonably confident, and didn't mess up more than a handful of times (I think!). I now know what "suckers" are (little extra leafy stems that just steal energy from the fruiting parts of the plant), how to identify them, and how to remove them.





Sunday, July 26, 2015

Angel Food Cake with Fresh Raspberry Cream {St. Anne Day!}

St. Anne Day 2015 :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

We are up at the lake in Michigan for the last time this summer, our last bout of (planned) family travel before little sister makes her big entrance. Today we celebrated the feast of St. Anne, mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus, and my oldest girl's namesake! It was an absolutely perfect day, warm and sunny and filled with laughter and family. This was the first time I've remembered Anne's name day was coming up soon enough to plan ahead and make something special for dessert!

Angel Food Cake with Fresh Raspberry Cream :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Since I'm not at home, I wanted to keep it simple. What is simpler than a cake mix that only requires you to add water? Enter Betty Crocker angel food cake. So delicious, and not perceptibly different from making it from scratch, which requires beating and beating and beating a dozen (a dozen!) egg whites forever.

And you guys, did you know that you can whip cream with a blender? It's not as fluffy as if you whip it in a mixer with a whisk, but it takes approximately 20 seconds, so it works in a pinch! I folded a pint of smashed raspberries and a little bit of sugar into 2 cups of cream, and served it alongside the cake as a topping.

Angel Food Cake with Fresh Raspberry Cream :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Angel Food Cake with Fresh Raspberry Cream :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Angel Food Cake with Fresh Raspberry Cream :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Since I didn't have the proper equipment, and I made a lousy judgment call trying to revive it before serving, mine was a lot more like sauce, where I was originally going for fluffy pink clouds. The taste was still amazing. And it made a certain little girl very happy. :-)

Angel Food Cake with Fresh Raspberry Cream :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Garden Update + Pesto Pasta Salad

I missed an update in between, so prepare yourselves, because the garden is getting out of control!

Here's a photo from July 11:

Garden 7/11/2015

Not too crazy, right? Lettuce is coming in, tomatoes are filling out, radishes are a little bit nuts (and were mercilessly thinned).

Garden 7/11/2015 (radish)

Because that's not how you grow radishes. Oops. Turns out if you have extra seeds, you should save them, or give them away, or even throw them away, instead of just tossing them all in the dirt and giving yourself a bunch of extra work to do thinning, and also... no mature radishes.

OK, one mature radish.

Garden 7/21/2015 (radish!)

Not a totally wasted effort, however, because as it turns out, radish greens are edible and tasty! After cleaning (so thoroughly! many slugs spotted.), they are great sautéed and tossed in with scrambled eggs, pasta sauces, wherever you might use spinach or kale (although they are kind of prickly, so I wouldn't use them in salad). And I made a big batch of pesto, which made a phenomenal pasta salad! (Scroll to the bottom for recipes.)

Radish Green Pesto! :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Pesto Pasta Salad :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

The carrots and lettuce are playing nicely:

Garden 7/11/2015 (carrots and lettuce)

And here's where I start to lose my grip on the situation (from July 21):

Garden 7/21/2015

ACK! What is even going on?! OK, a couple of things are going on. The aforementioned radish was harvested, along with most of the rest of the radish greens. We might get another few radishes. Peppers and tomatoes are going like gangbusters, loving the recent heat wave.

Garden 7/21/2015 (cherry tomatoes)

Garden 7/21/2015 (cherry tomatoes)

Basil! Threatening to go to seed. Chopped off a bunch of the tops and used 'em for dinner last night. That'll teach them to be dramatic.

Garden 7/21/2015 (basil)

And then there was the time when I almost lost my entire crop of beets to some sneaky, devious, giant weeds that took over their spot in the bed. Being still firmly in the camp of "novice gardener," I was more than a little nervous to pull out of a bunch of uniform-looking, big, healthy, pink-rooted plants that were growing where I planted beets. Are these the beets? I asked myself. Then, after remembering what fully-grown beets look like, I took a deep breath, gave myself a little pep talk (out loud: "Trust yourself!" Oh yes I did.), and pulled them ALL! And lo and behold, what should remain but two neat little rows of the saddest, most sun-starved little baby beet plants you've ever seen.

Garden 7/21/2015 (beets, right after weeding)

Now that I've gotten rid of their competition and thinned them out a bit, I think they'll bounce back.

I was about to thin the vining plants on the right side, started to, and then totally lost my nerve. (The beet weed episode really took it out of me!) I'm going to make sure to get a lot of advice (from my friends on youtube, and some real gardeners at the local garden center) before going back to stake, prune, and thin those bad boys. More on my findings in the next post!

Pesto can be made with basically anything dark and leafy, so I went for radish greens, which I had in abundance. Try kale, chard, collards, or stick with the classic basil. They are all delicious.

Pesto Pasta Salad

1/3 cup radish pesto (recipe follows)
1/2 pound cavatappi, or other short, dried pasta, cooked al dente, and drained
8 ounces fresh mozzarella (I used the tiny balls that come in a water-packed container)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 12-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

Toss ingredients together in a large bowl and stir to combine, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, and thinning the sauce as needed with olive oil. Store in the refrigerator for days of easy meals!

Radish Green Pesto

4 cups radish greens (or other greens, see head note)
1.5 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
salt and pepper to taste

Place ingredients in a food processor, and pulse to combine, then puree until you reach your desired consistency. Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mint Mojito Iced Coffee

mint mojito iced coffee

It's one hundred million degrees outside today, and of course I decided this was the day to pull the jungle of weeds and deadhead the rose bushes. I got totally soaked before I started, trying to fill up the kiddie pool with a hose that got fastened to the spigot weirdly, and I'm 7 months pregnant. I'm sure my sweat- and dirt-stained brow, diaper-clad toddler, and hunched posture made more than one passerby look askance. But the yard work is done! And now I'm in my blissfully air conditioned home, said toddler is napping, and it's time for a little pick-me-up/cool-me-down.

When we were in California a few weeks ago, we discovered Philz Coffee, a local coffee shop where each cup is individually hand-crafted. From their website: "We wouldn't even call this a cup of coffee; rather 'A Cup of Love.'" Of course, individually-brewed coffee means a high price tag and a long long wait, but when in Rome... you know. My sweet friend recommended this drink when we stopped by on our way back from the farmers market, and after one sip, I knew I was destined to re-make it at home.

Mint Mojito Iced Coffee :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

A giant handful of smashed, bruised, fresh mint. Ice. Sugar. Milk. Coffee. I declare this to be a cup of love, indeed. Here's to lots more afternoons lounging by the kiddie pool. Cheers!

Mint Mojito Iced Coffee :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Mint Mojito Iced Coffee

Ice
10-20 fresh mint leaves (from 2-3 sprigs), plus an extra sprig to garnish
1 tablespoon maple syrup
8-12 ounces coffee (cool, ideally)
a couple of splashes of half and half (or milk, or cream)

Layer the mint and ice in a tall glass. Add the maple syrup, coffee, and cream, and use a straw to muddle the mint leaves a bit, releasing more of the minty flavor. Enjoy.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Black Raspberry Muffins

We just got back from a whirlwind two weeks of traveling. We spent a weekend in Indianapolis celebrating my goddaughter Maggie's half-birthday (necessary every year, with a birthday only days after Christmas). Then we flew to San Francisco for a magnificent 5 days of coastline drives, catching up with dear friends, stone fruit (a couple weeks early! such a treat!), and not enough sleep. We were home just long enough to unpack, do laundry, and re-pack, and then headed up to Traverse City for a week. We packed in all of the things a summer in Northern Michigan is made of: a hike in the Sleeping Bear Dunes to a spectacular Lake Michigan view, bonfires, fireworks, the Cherry Festival, ice cream, s'mores, swimming, paddleboarding, and cherry picking. On our last night, we sat on the dock, leaned back, and stared at the sky, velvety black and full of stars.

Black Raspberry Muffins :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Our neighborhood farmers market happened during the two days when we were home in the middle, so I had to stop by. Thank goodness I did, because black raspberry season is incredibly short, and there they were, plump and perfect. I picked up two pints and dragged them home, and got to work making them into delicious goodies. My priorities are suspect, sometimes. I really needed to be cleaning and packing. But you know what? Black raspberries only happen once a year, and I needed to celebrate their magic while it lasted.

Black Raspberry Muffins :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

I have no regrets.

Black Raspberry Muffins :: coppertopkitchen.blogspot.com

Black Raspberry Muffins

I made these with red raspberries a few weeks back, so feel free to substitute your favorite berry. The lime zest is the thing that sets these muffins apart. You could use lemon or orange, but the lime is really unusual and special. You could also sub in ricotta cheese or plain yogurt for the sour cream.

3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
Zest of a lime
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups black raspberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and butter a standard-size muffin tin. Whisk together the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Add the melted butter. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and lime zest and use your fingers or a fork to work the zest into the sugar, releasing the citrus oil (and flavor). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lime sugar. Add the wet ingredients, and fold together until barely combined. Don't over mix! Fold in the berries gently.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if you like. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the tins and cool on a rack. Serve warm.

Makes 1 dozen. (When completely cooled, these can be frozen. Your future self will thank you for the quick and easy muffins!)