Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Elderflower Cordial

Yesterday, Anna and I braved tall weeds and a wetland beside the road home to pick some elderflower heads for cordial.  It's amazing how each elderberry plant has it's own scent.  Some are very, very faintly scented, others smell earthy (or as Anna says, "like dirt"), and then you come across the plants that are heavenly, flowery sweet - those are the plants you want to pick from.  The flower heads are best picked on a hot, dry day, when most of the flowers have opened, but there are still a few in bud.  They are beautiful flowers, aren't they?

After collecting about two dozen very sweet-smelling flower clusters, we picked through them for little bugs.  And there were many - what bug wouldn't want to live amongst the elderflowers?

Then we put the flowers in a bowl with the zest from 3 lemons and poured 6 1/2 cups of boiling water over them to infuse (covered with a dish towel) for 24 hours...

Tomorrow we will strain the liquid, boil it with 4-5 cups of sugar and the juice from the 3 lemons, and then can the syrup for a little taste of summer all year long.  Excellent diluted with seltzer, although the traditional way to drink elderflower cordial, I believe, is with champagne!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Strawberry Blitz

The cool, cloudy and rainy weather we've been having has not made for a great strawberry season.  True, we've made a couple strawberry shortcakes, but the farm just hasn't had great quantities of berries to pick.  Until yesterday...  A few days of sun after weeks of rain, and Michael was off picking quarts and quarts of berries while Anna was at ballet and I was at work.  (Lucky he did, because today it poured and it's supposed to rain the rest of the week.  That will essentially destroy the rest of the local strawberry crop.)  I left work early for an afternoon/evening of processing berries with my girl.

The final results of yesterday's berry blitz are pretty impressive, I think.  Anna and I put 8 one-gallon bags of sliced strawberries in syrup in the freezer, made 9 jars of strawberry jam with lemon zest, 7 jars of strawberry mango jam (the champagne mango season in Mexico corresponds to our strawberry season), one strawberry pie, and LOTS of treats for the chickens.

Someone couldn't resist nibbling the pie...

Tomorrow we'll be freezing the rest of our champagne mangoes.  There are definitely a lot of strawberry and mango smoothies in our future.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Something to Think About

from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website:

The New USDA Replacement for the Food Pyramid

The Same Old Government Farm Subsidies

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer Dishes

With temps in the upper 90's, it's time for some cool summer dishes - vintage melmac we picked up in Rangeley, Maine at the end of last summer.  They're perfect for outdoor dining and picnics, dishwasher safe (we did a test run with a single orange saucer just to confirm) and quite the bargain - who could resist such a fun set?  Well, Michael could resist, but as you see, we got them anyway!

There is also a lime green serving platter and a grey serving bowl already filled with fruit.  But the sugar and creamer are definitely my favorites.  They look like they came straight out of the Jetsons!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Birthday Cake

Exactly one month late, and for breakfast (that's a treat!) Anna had the birthday cake she really wanted.  The May 7th version was a gluten free cake so Michael could indulge, but it left a lot to be desired.  Anna picked a yummy, buttery sponge cake and we dressed it up with strawberries and freshly whipped cream.  So good!
Anna looks very happy, doesn't she?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Tomatoes are Finally Planted!

My one big gardening splurge this year was this beautiful set of stainless steel tomato spirals - an excellent example of a simple, functional item as art.  And the material looks so good against all the stone.  I love them!  (I'll have to remember this blissful feeling when I'm spending all those hours this fall, late into the night after a full day of work, processing tomatoes!)

In addition to planting our tomatoes in their new bed with their new supports, we also planted some columbines for the butterflies (hopefully our hummingbirds will like them, too) and a birch-leaf spirea above the tomato bed.  It's so cute and will only grow to be 2 ft x 2 ft - a little meatball shrub.

Michael dug out thistles (even the sheep won't eat those!) while I helped Anna harvest her first batch of chamomile, which has been our most prolific plant this year.  We had little chamomile plants everywhere (literally, everywhere), which we mostly consolidated into a single large chamomile patch, although we left some naturalized in the grass outside the sun room (soon to be Anna's ballet studio - more on that later).  The little chamomile daisies look so cheerful spread throughout the grass.  I think Anna will be able to supply all her chamomile needs for the year with her own plants.  That's a nice feeling for a girl who loves her herbal tea!

And while we were all busy in the yard and garden, the Tiger took a little dress-up break from his mousing responsibilities...